Poole Harbour Fisheries
Dredging for shellfish in Poole Harbour has taken place for over 40 years. The fishery started as a small artisanal fishery for the common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) and then, with the introduction of the Manila clam (Ruditapes philippinarum) in the 1980s, there was increased investment and intensity of fishing effort which led to the development of new fishing methods.
The fishery started using hand-raking techniques which then developed into the use of mechanised dredges. The modern-day fishery uses the pump-scoop dredge system which consists of a mechanically operated dredge basket which utilises water jets to direct the flow of sediment through the dredge to increase efficiency. The Manila clam and common cockle are the main species harvested although other clam species including the American Hard-Shelled clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and the native clam (Ruditapes decussatus) are also collected in smaller quantities.
The fishery was originally managed under The Poole Fishery Order 1985, a hybrid several and regulating order, which managed both the wild fishery for clam species and aquaculture within Poole Harbour. This introduced a licencing system for fishing for clams using the pump-scoop dredge but this did not extend to the use of this fishing gear for other species.
On 1 st July 2015, the Poole Harbour Dredge Permit Byelaw was introduced to replace the Fishery Order and manage the wild dredge fishery for shellfish. The byelaw requires a permit to use a pump-scoop dredge within Poole Harbour and therefore manages the direct use of the fishing gear rather than a particular species, bringing together fishing for multiple species under a single management measure.
Up to 45 permits are taken out each year. In 2021, 217 tonnes of Manila clam were landed into Poole Harbour. In addition, 32 tonnes of Cockles and 13 tonnes of American Hard Shell Clam were also landed here.
Permits are issued annually and, currently, 45 permits are issued each year. All vessels in the fishery are less than 9m in length and are small open vessels which carry out day fishing trips during periods of high water. The byelaw regulates a number of areas of the fishing operation including;
- Catch restrictions and reporting
- Gear types
- Gear construction and restrictions
- Spatial and temporal restrictions
- The fitting of specified equipment to vessels
The fishery is seasonal, running from 25 th May to 23 rd December each year. Outside of the season all dredge equipment must be removed from vessels. There are also additional seasonal restrictions on accessing certain areas within the Harbour which are identified as being important for national and international overwintering bird species.
The fishery operates within the boundary of the Poole Harbour Special Protection Area (SPA), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Ramsar Site. The management for the fishery was developed in close consultation with Natural England and other organisations to ensure that the fishing methods are compatible with the conservation objectives of the site.
The value of the fishery and quantities of the main commercial species landed is monitored each year through the submission of catch data. For the 2019-2020 season a total of 277. 2 tonne of Manila clam, 79.8 tonne of common cockle and 21.5 tonne of other bivalve species were landed by the 45 participants in the fishery. The value of the fishery for 2019-2020 is estimated at between £1,333,159.60 and £1,764,325.80 based on the fluctuating value per kg of individual species landed throughout the season.