In today's Isle of Thanet Gazette there is a interesting article on page 8 about shellfish harvesting, which once again opens the debate about harvesting shellfish from the foreshore of the Thanet coast.
Sometimes I think the concerns in the past have been more about the ethnic origin of the people doing the harvesting than what is actually being taken. But the Gazette does raise a very interesting point about whether shellfish is being harvested sustainably from our foreshore. Something which in my experience is really difficult to measure.
Firstly we have have to look at the life and death cycle of the shellfish that are being affected by the harvesting. I am without doubt that the loses of mussels during the harsh Winter period of the January and February winter period does make a hundred dustbin bags of mussels a drop in the ocean. Yet the population does recover.
Then we have the Oysters which also take a bashing during the Winter months. The only difference with Oysters on the Thanet Coast is that they are not native. In fact they are a invasive Pacific species which is undergoing a population explosion at present which has not reached its peak. So how on earth can that be measured.
As for Winkles, well they use to be harvested commercially many years ago by hand. This was done sustainably by sieving, allowing the smaller ones to fall through. Even during that period there was always plenty of Winkles about. Today the amount being taken is still fractional to the time when eating winkles was popular.
The problem I suppose is down to people breaking Fisheries bye laws and ignoring the Thanet Coastal code which is put in place to ensure sustainability. Even then I cannot see what inpact a few people ignoring the rules would have on the shellfish population.
My main concerns has to be the methods people use to harvest shellfish which is also pointed out in the article by coastal warden Steve Beck. It is the damage caused by digging, hammering or whatever to the shellfish beds which makes it difficult for the population to recover. A fine example of this has to be the harvesting of Limpets where the method is to literally smash at everything to get the Limpet off.