Concerns over cockle pickers descending on a Saundersfoot beach during the early hours of the morning have resurfaced again with reports from local residents once again passed onto police.

County councillor for the seaside village’s south ward Cllr Chris Williams said that discussions have been sparked once again after he received complaints last month about the fact that in the small hours of the morning numerous cockle pickers were on Glen beach picking shellfish.

“I reported this matter to the police along with the concerned resident and the fisheries department,” he said.

“As this time of year represented very low tides this went on for numerous days.

“My concerns were that, in my view, they shouldn’t fish late at night through to the early hours.

“These activities also caused concerns to the local residents at the Glen when vast numbers of cars pull up at all hours.

Glen Beach in Saundersfoot
Glen Beach in Saundersfoot (Pic. Gareth Davies Photography)

“I have expressed concern previously that this could potentially be commercial fishing that would be against the law.”

Cllr Williams has shared the response he received from local authorities on the matter, explainin the position: ‘Picking cockles after dusk is illegal, but I can’t see any evidence that they were commercially cockle gathering.

‘I’m afraid an assumption by the caller is not evidential. The caller did the right thing and rang police on 101.

‘As you’re aware we have conducted further multi-agency operations this year, but to date no one has been found committing any offence.

‘Whilst on some days we had some larger numbers of people, each bucket/container we inspected was fully compliant with both size and quantity of shellfish.

‘Generally the persons who caused the most complaints (those of east Asian origin) prefer razor, mussels and clams to cockles so I can count on one hand those that were actually gathering cockles.

‘Asian groups do generally attend in family groups for a day out on the beach and, as it traditional, they pick food for a meal later on. This is not illegal.

‘Other agencies likewise have not gained any intelligence/evidence to confirm any offences being committed within each agency’s remit.

‘This includes food standards GLAA (gang masters) and police. Fisheries Officers have been regularly patrolling the area over this period of time, but not at the times mentioned in your email.

‘This is on a ‘when available basis’ rather than each tide, spring or otherwise. We will maintain a presence at irregular times in the area, and I would seek continued calls are made where there are concerns, either to Police on 101 or direct to this email address [email protected]

‘I hope this helps, your local constituents feel they are being listened to.’

Cllr Williams has continued to highlight concerns flagged-up by locals earlier this year, whilst a multi-agency operation took place in Saundersfoot towards the end of last year to take positive action regarding reports of illegal cockle picking on the beaches.

As well as members of the local neighbourhood policing team being present, other agencies included - Fisheries, Rural crime officers, Port health, Border force, and Gang masters labour abuse authority. Pembrokeshire County Council were also involved, from a food safety standpoint.

Last year, the Welsh Government held a consultation on cockling, moving to ensure that it will be a criminal offence to commercially gather cockle from any public cockle bed in Wales without an ‘All Wales’ cockle permit (a person is considered to be commercially gathering if they remove more than 5 kg of cockle from a fishery in a single day).