Course:FRST370/Projects/Cockle Harvesting in Ferryside Village, Carmarthenshire, Wales, U.K.

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This paper aims to cover the history of cockle harvesting in Ferryside village as well as the journey to put the power back into the hands of local harvesters after gross, unsustainable harvesting occurred on their beaches as well as the beaches of neighboring villages within the Three Rivers Cockle Fishery by outsiders between 1993 and 2007.


Ferryside village is located in Carmarthenshire county which lies on the southern coast of Wales, U.K. It is a small coastal village with a tradition of harvesting cockles, a type of mollusk, that goes back to the mid-1800s. Traditionally it was a woman’s duty to take her donkey down to the beach and harvest the cockles however over the decades the tradition spread to all members of the family (Thomas-Ellis 2010). Cockle harvesting was enjoyed by the villagers as it provided food and an income however this was disrupted in the summer of 1993. In 1993 waves of outsiders stormed the beaches of Ferryside to collect as many cockles as they could and in the process showed no care for the beaches, the cockles, or the locals who called Ferryside home. The locals saw the cockles as their right, they grew up in Ferryside and their ancestors harvested cockles on the same beaches, the outsiders saw the cockle rich beaches as a right for all as no permit was required and no harvest limits were set. The belief that all are welcome to the cockles of Ferryside was echoed by the Three Rivers Fishery, the fishery that manages the cockle beds of Ferryside and neighboring villages. Gangs were created between locals and outsider and violence followed shortly, the Three Rivers Fishery soon realized after the summer of 1993 that the unsustainable harvest did nothing but hurt the locals and cripple the cockle beds. Discussions came about between the locals of Ferryside and Three Rivers Fishery regarding the use of a license system, most locals wanted the system as it would discourage foreign cockle harvesters from taking their cockles however nothing came about for over a decade. The conversation of putting in place a regulating order, a system for licensing the cockle beds, finally reemerged by the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee in 2007 when a neighboring village, Llansteffan, tried licensing their beaches for a summer which resulted in a success (South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee 2007). The following year the cockle beds of Ferryside as well as the other villages under the management of Three Rivers Fishery were licensed and a permit was required to harvest cockles. The care and management of the cockle beds by Three Rivers Fishery has also been increased since 2008 ensuring that all harvesting is sustainable and occurs at times where the cockle beds are not stressed. 

Tenure arrangements

Any who apply for a license will pay £992 to the Three Rivers Cockle Fishery. The number of available licenses reflect the amount of available cockle stock on the beaches. Most people who apply for cockle harvesting licenses in the Three Rivers Cockle Fishery which includes Ferryside are from Ferryside or the neighboring villages of Llanybri and St. Ishmael. Licenses must be renewed every year. If at any point there is a threat to the cockles harvesting can be shut down (South wales Sea Fisheries Committee 2008). The Marine and Fisheries Division of the Welsh government carries out the assessment of the cockle beds in the Three Rivers Fishery as well as publishes the finding of the assessments online. If any action must be taken with a cockle bed such as a suspension of harvesting due to cockle mortality, the Marine and Fisheries Division will send out a public notice online (Welsh Government 2018). The management of the beds is the responsibility of the Three Rivers Fishery.

Administrative arrangements

Three Rivers Fishery manages the beaches of Ferryside as well as the beaches of a few other neighboring cockle harvesting villages. Fishery officers look at the permits of cockle harvesters at the beach, should a harvester not have a permit the cockle they harvested are seized and a hefty fine is given to them. The number of cockles is checked to make sure that the harvester has not gone over harvested. If over harvesting has taken place the fishery officer can seize all cockles or just the cockles that were above the harvest limit depending on the situation. Should a cockle bed have a low amount of cockles or a high mortality of cockles the Three Rivers Fishery will report it to the Marine and Fisheries Division of the Welsh government and a public notice will be issued online of which beds are harvestable and how much can be harvested, if any are healthy enough (Welsh Government 2018). Any harvesting done on beds deemed unsuitable for harvest can result in fines as well as a loss of license.

Affected Stakeholders

The affected stakeholders are the villagers of Ferryside, outsider cockle harvesters, the Three Rivers Fishery, as well as the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee. After the cockle beds were licensed in 2008 most license holders are locals who carry on the tradition that lay at the heart of Ferryside. Outsiders are no longer allowed to come and take as many cockles as they want and will be fined and charged by fishery protection officers of the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee. Three Rivers Fishery manages the beaches of Ferryside and other neighboring villages through cockle bed assessments. If a cockle bed is low in cockles or if there is a high cockle mortality a period of no harvesting will be implemented by the Three Rivers Fishery.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The cockle harvesters who traveled across Wales to harvest the cockles of Ferryside are no longer interested in any of the cockle beds under the management of Three Rivers Cockle Fishery now that a licensing system is in place. Heavy fines will be handed out to any cockle poachers and the locals won’t hesitate to tell Three Rivers Fisheries about any suspicions of illegal harvesting. There is too much at risk and not enough to gain illegally harvesting the cockles from the shores of Ferryside. The large abundance of cockles like the one seen in the summer of 1993 are rare


The regulating order set up in 1965 for the Burry Inlet which put in place a licensing system for harvesting cockles was a huge part of the decision for licensing the beaches of Ferryside as the Burry Inlet very rarely had issues with illegal harvesting and never on the scale of the summer of 1993 on the beaches of Ferryside (South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee 2007). The licensing of the Llansteffan beaches in 2007 played a huge part in the push to license the beaches in Three Rivers Cockle Fishery. On June 26th, 2007 a fishery opened in Llansteffan. Within four weeks of opening cockle mortality reduced the available stock forcing the fishery to close the cockle beds. However for the time the cockle beds were open the operation of the fishery was very successful. The majority of cockle harvesters were locals and very few outsiders were present. Vehicles were limited on the beach in order to reduce damage of the cockle beds. The parking area for vehicles was located on a field but had to be changed due to wet weather leading to it being on the Green at Llansteffan. This was done through working and communicating with the community. The single point of access proved to be beneficial as it allowed a chance to discuss any difficulties or issues with the gatherers and to check if any of the vehicles were controlled by gangmasters which helped increase community involvement (South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee 2007). The regulated cockle harvesting season at the newly opened Llansteffan fishery was a very positive experience for all involved and showed how a regulating order can help local harvesters and increase community collaboration. Since 2007 Three Rivers Cockle Fishery has been doing a good job managing the beaches of Ferryside. Illegal harvesting is rarely an issue nowadays and regular monitoring of the cockle beds are being undertaken by the Marine and Fisheries Division of the Welsh government. The locals of Ferryside can now no longer worry about losing the tradition of cockling.


The power now lies in the hands of the locals as well as Three Rivers Cockle Fishery. Locals hold the permits and Three Rivers Cockle Fishery makes sure the cockle beds are harvested only when they are healthy as well as making sure no illegal harvesting takes place. Originally the Three Rivers Fishery did not do anything to help the locals of Ferryside, however after the involvement of the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee in 2008 they actively engage with the community and actively manage the cockle beds of Ferryside ensuring that there will not be a repeat of the “Cockle Wars” of 1993.


The continued assessment of cockle beds by Three Rivers Fishery is recommended as these assessments help determine when harvesting is appropriate and how many permits can be granted if harvesting is appropriate. Three Rivers Fishery should continue to engage with the community and offer any new information about the cockle beds through easy online access to permit holders like they did when pronouncing a period of no harvest in 2018. The watchful eyes of the locals as well as strong sense of ownership and pride of the Ferryside cockle beds should be maintained as it discourages any outside cockle poachers and ensures the continuation of the tradition of cockle harvesting.










Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Lachlin Robertson.
  1. Clement, B. (1999, April 10). Cockle wars being fought on beaches. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
  2. South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (2007, July). A regulating order for the Three Rivers Cockle Fishery? Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
  3. South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee. (2007). Regulating the Three Rivers Cockle Fishery - 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
  4. Hansard HC Deb vol 248 cc1323-30 (31 October 1994) [Electronic version]
  5. Llewellyn, L. (2016, May 9). Three Rivers Cockle Abundance Survey Report - April 2016. Retrieved November 09, 2018, from 
  6. Prestage, M. (1993, June 22). Pickers muscle in on bumper cockle harvest: Michael Prestage on a. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from
  7. Thomas-Ellis, A. (2010). Colm's Arrival. In My father's places: A memoir by Dylan Thomas's daughter. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub.
  8. Welsh Government. (2018, September 25). Suspension of temporary closure of the Llanybri, Ferryside, St Ishmaels and Tanylan cocklebeds. Retrieved from