Cockle Fishing – how do we do it?

Our cockle boat Mary Amelia goes out into the Thames Estuary when the tide is coming in to reach its destination to begin cockling.  The wheelhouse of the boat is well equipped with radios and plotters which are used to plot a course for the boat to reach the permitted cockling areas.

Cockles are fished using a dredge which is placed into water when the boat is floating in between 5ft and 15ft of water.  During this time, the boat will be moving at a speed of around five knots.

A blade is submerged into the ground whilst high pressure water pushes water into the ground to dislodge the cockles, which are then sucked up through a pipe onto the boat.

These cockles then pass through a screen which rotates around.  The bars are spaced at a specific measurement apart so that any small, young cockles, mud, sand and water fall back into the sea.

The cockles then move along onto a conveyor belt and finally fall into the hold of the boat. It can take as little as three hours to fish 10 tonne of cockles, the amount permitted by the Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

Once the boat has reached its permitted quota, it will head back into Leigh-on-Sea.  Depending on how quickly it has managed to catch them, it may be able to return back into Leigh on the outgoing tide.  If it misses this, the boat will sit on the mud until the next tide starts to come in.

When the boat arrives back at its mooring, the cockles are unloaded using a digger and placed into large trailers.  They are then transported to our factory where they are cooked and processed ready for export to local, national and international markets. Read more about this on the Cockle Processing page.