Information sought over concerns of commercial shellfish harvesting on Thanet coastline

Shellfish collection is not illegal but there are rules associated with the activity

Thanet Coast Project is asking for information to help gauge the amount of commercial collecting and harvesting of shellfish that is taking place on isle beach areas.

It follows concerns raised of shellfish being taken in bulk from sites including Epple Bay, Westbrook, Westgate and Beresford Gap.

The collecting of shellfish is not illegal but there rules around bulk harvesting, the collection for public consumption and ensuring the chalk reef is not damaged.

Enforcement issues fall under the remit of a number of organisations including Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority for reports of large groups being used to make the collections: Thanet council environmental health for concerns large quantities of hand harvested oysters or cockles are being sold to the public or to a local food business; Natural England via Kent Police on 101 for damage to the chalk reef and the Kent & Essex IFCA for the collection of periwinkles by mechanical means (other than by hand), native oysters collection, or large scale cockle harvesting.

There are often reports of commercial foraging around the coastline and these need to be recorded in order for them to be monitored.

The Thanet Coast Project post says: “Please help us to gauge how many of these activities are taking place around our coast.

“If you see any commercial collectors and harvesters  please use the online form to record activities taking place on the Thanet Coast (from Whitstable around Thanet to Sandwich Bay) – noting the time and date; location and number of collectors.

“Reports can be sent in by any member of the public, organisations or water user clubs and authority staff  and will go into a local database to inform the main authorities with duties to manage shellfisheries and the coastline  within the NE Kent Marine Protected Area (NEKMPA).”

Guidelines for shellfish collecting as an individual are:

  • Tread carefully to avoid damage to the rocky chalk shore especially on the lower shore where the chalk is most fragile
  • Always put rocks and seaweed back the way they were – there are animals underneath which need them for shelter.
  • Shellfish should be collected by hand only (not mechanical means) and without breaking the chalk rocks (Local Sea Fisheries bylaws allow for the collection of periwinkle by hand only)
  • Take only enough for your own needs to ensure that many are left for other collectors and the species can still thrive
  • Select only the larger shellfish to ensure that younger ones can continue to grow on and establish the next generation
  • Take care to avoid putting feeding or roosting birds to flight
  • Avoid collecting shellfish during ‘Temporary Prohibition Orders’ (Fishery Products and Live Shellfish) when it is a criminal offence to collect live shellfish such as cockles and mussels for human consumption on the grounds of public food safety. Contact your local authority for further information
  • Abide by food safety standards and ‘guidelines for safe working in estuaries and tidal areas’ (Health and Safety Executive)

Find the online form at


  1. it is probably gypsies or illegal immigrants but whoever it is I will report it but why not make it illegal or someone may be poisoned


  2. This has been going on for decades at the sssi at forness point. Use to see a family every day taking sacks full of mussels. About 10 onion bags size aday. This was about 10 years ago !

  3. Westgate to Birchington. Oriental families. All the time. Not rocket science to know what they are being harvested for.

    • Thanetian Blind – you are absolutely correct. Depending on tides, Oriental family‘s from London collecting onion size bags of mussels most weekends from Epple Bay. Normally take four bags at a time. Car regi plates indicate Londoners.Family BBQ whist men collecting.

    • Yes very true Thanetian Blind, our neighbour is at the beaches of Westgate and Birchington almost daily, watching sea birds and has frequently asked them not to do it. They always plead ignorance. Last week I saw oriental females collecting bags of Oysters from the rocks and the near part of the sea wall using a hammer and chisel at the Westgate end of Minnis, she had a large washing bagful already collected.

  4. I saw lots (of Chinese looking )at epple bay a few days ago , a family having a BBQ while other family members were on the rocks with shopper bags full !!

  5. why is the coast project asking for information about shellfish collection. they know who’s doing it and where but ask for the public to do their job. maybe rather than put little signs up and leaflets you can’t beat the direct approach. in other words go and confront them. they know what they’re up to.

  6. This country is sadly going down the pan! If we value our coastline, and are aware of such large scale harvesting, which apparently has been going on for years, the question MUST be why has it not been stopped already. Why are we seemingly powerless to have the right authorities to tackle this immediately and prosecute? Why are we always waiting for the ‘so-called’ authorities’to act…..? It is utterly depressing. I really do despair. Too little always too late.

  7. Thursday 4June 17:42 .there were around10 people at botany bay carrying large bags of shellfish back to cars at the small car park at the end of Botany rd. They were definitely not locals. Earlier in the week my wife and I saw around 15 people carrying large blue bags back from the rocks at foreness to cars asked opposite the palm bay school. Both of these groups Jan obviously much more shellfish than would be for domestic consumption.We are concerned that the rocks will soon be stripped bare as happened a few years ago when the wrinkles and when’s almost disappeared from these rocs. It’s obviously organised colections.

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