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Cockle shell

Harvesting of shellfish

Cockles and mussels are bivalve molluscs also known as shellfish, which feed by filtering their food from the water that they live in.

If they live in an area contaminated with sewage or affected by a poisonous form of algal bloom, the shellfish can accumulate bacteria or viruses and also toxins from the algae. Illnesses such as Gastroenteritis and Hepatitis can result from eating contaminated shellfish while algal toxin poisoning such as paralytic shellfish poisoning and diarrhoetic shellfish poisoning can also cause serious illness.

To control the risk of illness, shellfish being placed on the market for human consumption must originate from a classified production area. Areas are classified per species according to the degree of contamination, based on monitoring of faecal contamination in the shellfish. Only shellfish from Class A waters can be placed on the market directly, otherwise they must go through further processing before going for sale.

These classified areas used for commercial harvesting of shellfish are sampled regularly by the local authority. The samples are sent to The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in Weymouth, who collate the results and classify the beds.

The shellfish beds are classified by the amount of E.coli bacteria that are contained within the flesh of the shellfish. An up-to-date list of classified areas is published on the CEFAS websiteOpens new window (see Burry Inlet). It is divided by local authority areas and provides all the current shellfish harvesting production area details.

If the sampling results for either of these are above the acceptable standards prescribed in legislation; temporary closure notices, prohibiting the harvesting of shellfish, are served where there is a risk to public health.

Areas currently classified within City and County of Swansea

(Note: areas on the Northern side of the low tide channel of the River Loughor are under the responsibility of Carmarthenshire County Council).

Production areaSpeciesSite nameBed status
Burry Inlet (South)CocklesSouth EastOpen
Whitford SandsCocklesWhitfordOpen
Whitford SandsMusselsWhitfordOpen

The following map from the CEFAS websiteOpens new window illustrates the classified cockle beds within the Burry Inlet.

Burry inlet map (cockles)

The following map from the CEFAS websiteOpens new window illustrates the classified mussel beds within the Burry Inlet.

Burry inlet map (mussels)

Shellfish traceability

To ensure traceability of the product, a registration document is required to accompany each batch of live shellfish during transportation from the production area they are gathered from to the dispatch or purification centre where they are to be processed.

Please contact us for registration documents if you wish to gather shellfish from a classified production area within City and County of Swansea.

(Please note: a licence is required to gather cockles within the Burry Inlet which is covered by a Regulatory Order under the control of Natural Resources WalesOpens new window).

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