Guidelines for safe working in estuaries and tidal areas when harvesting produce such as cockles, mussels and shrimps

This publication is also available in Chinese and Polish.


These guidelines were first introduced following the deaths in February 2004 of 21 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay. They were revised during the winter of 2004.

Before you go

Before going out to gather shellfish you must carefully plan and prepare for your intended work. To do this you must have information so that you can assess the risks and make informed decisions and when you go out onto the fishery you must have suitable equipment and sensible transport arrangements.


As a minimum you should have:


You should have with you:


When planning your work you must:

Getting to the work area

Where trailers pulled by tractors are used to carry passengers, they must be fitted with headboards, tailboards and suitable side protection to prevent passengers falling off. Passengers should not be carried in tractor cabs (unless the manufacturer has provided a second seat), on tractor steps or on the drawbar. Further information can be found in the free Agricultural Information Sheet AIS36.

Normally ATVs should not be used to carry more passengers than specified in the manufacturer's handbook.

Other issues

Other issues you will need to consider include:

Lifejackets and liferafts

If you follow the precautions in this guidance and plan sensibly you should not need to use lifejackets or liferafts. You may however wish to carry these with you. If you do, lifejackets should, as a minimum, be manufactured to British Standard EN 394:1994 and have buoyancy of not less than 100 Newtons. Lifejackets to this standard can currently be bought for just over £50.00. Liferafts should meet the standard laid down in SOLAS regulation III/4 (see MSN 1734). Contact the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) if you require further information.

Users of lifejackets and liferafts must be properly trained and instructed in their use. They must be able to operate them in an emergency. The devices must also be routinely checked (daily, weekly and monthly) and maintained in accordance with the supplier's instructions.

Remember that these devices are for emergencies only and you should not extend your working time because they are carried. Even allowing for contingencies you should always plan to be safely on shore before there is any possibility of being cut off by the tide when the need for a lifejacket or liferaft for your personal safety might arise.

Don't forget that in an emergency it may take the rescue services 30 minutes or more (longer in winter) to reach you and every emergency also puts the lives of emergency service workers at risk.


Be prepared and equipped for emergencies and build in time so that you can recover the situation and return to shore before being cut off by the tide. The typical dangers are:

If in difficulties telephone 999 to contact HM Coastguard or use Marine Band Radio channel 16 – the emergency frequency. Give your position as precisely as you can.

Access to the fishery by boat

Should you use a fishing vessel, boat or inflatable craft to access the fishery, legislation enforced by the MCA will apply and require the specific provision of lifejackets and/or liferafts. Further detailed advice may be obtained by contacting the MCA Advice Line on 0870 6006505 or through their website at