Cockling in Morecambe Bay

To fish for cockles in Morecambe Bay you will need to know where you can fish, when you can fish, what permits you will need to fish commercially and how to move and supply cockles legally.

Where and when you can fish for cockles

Morecambe bay commercial fisheries are: Flookburgh/Leven Sands and Newbiggin.

The times you can fish for cockles change regularly.

We monitor the quality of cockles throughout the year for level of contamination. If we find that levels of contamination are very high we can stop fishing.

North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) have the latest information on when you can fish for cockles.

NWFICA: where and when you can fish for cockles

Who can fish for cockles

If you collect less than five kilograms of cockles per day, you don’t need a permit.

If you are fishing for cockles commercially, you need to make arrangements to make sure you are operating legally.

How to legally fish commercially

To fish for cockles commercially you will need to:

  • have a 'byelaw 3 permit' and comply with its requirements
  • register with your local authority
  • complete movement documents
  • observe the current classification of the fishing area and Comply with the Food Safety Regulations
  • apply for a 'byelaw 3 permit' from North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA)

Apply for a 'byelaw 3' cockle fishing permit

Apply for a cockle fishing permit

You need to comply with requirements of NWIFCA Byelaw 3

Register with our food safety team

A gatherer/fisherman or an agent supplying live shellfish, such as cockles, is a 'Food Business Operator'.

If you live in South Lakeland you will need to register with us as a 'Food Business Operator'. You'll need to complete and return a Food Registration form (PDF 368KB / 1 page).

If you live outside South Lakeland, you will need to register with your own local authority food safety team. Find your local food safety team 

As a Registered Food Business Operator you have to make sure that the cockles are safe, and that you know where they came from, and where they are going to. This is known as 'traceability'. It allows un-safe cockles to be withdrawn from the market.

Apply for movement documents

Our food safety team will issue movement documents (for independent permitted gatherers and agents) for the Leven/Flookburgh and Newbiggin cockle beds. 

Contact our public protection team:

We can post the movement documents to you, or you can collect them from our Kendal office.

When you sell the cockles you must complete a 'movement document' with the following information:

  • your name (this could be more than one name if there are gatherers working together)
  • the date you gathered
  • name of production bed, for example; Newbiggin or Flookburgh
  • quantity in KG
  • place of destination. That is who you sold to. For example a local agent or an exporting agent (or the address of the purification or relaying area)
  • you'll need to make three copies:
    • the white one is for the person who you sell it to
    • the yellow one is your copy keep for 12 months
    • the pink one is to be returned to us


We regularly check the cockles in the cockle beds, to test if they're safe to be processed. This is called classification. We'll email commercial fishermen and agents to let them know about any changes that effect the safety of the cockles.

There are four different levels of classification.

The penalties for illegal cockle fishing

NWIFCA enforce the byelaws: NWIFCA; penalties for fisheries offences

Food safety regulations

We enforce food safety regulations.

Under Section 9 of the Food Safety Act 1990, as amended and the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 Cockles which are suspected of failing to achieve the food safety requirements may be seized and potentially destroyed by Authorised Officers from South Lakeland District Council.

Cockles subject to seizure will be removed in order to have it dealt with by a Justice of the Peace. Provisions within the Food Safety Act 1990, allow for the costs of destruction and disposal to be passed to the owner of the cockles.

Anyone found to be involved with the gathering, distribution or placing unclassified cockles on the market, and or anyone who does not possess the correct documentation may be subject to criminal investigation and formal enforcement action. If convicted, a fine or imprisonment for a term of up to two years or both may be imposed.