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Partners clamp down on illegal shellfish operations in Scotland

A multi-agency enforcement operation took place in the Lochaber area of the Highlands of Scotland

The operation, led by Highland Council’s Environmental Health Service, included participation by a number of partner agencies, including HMRC, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Police Scotland, Borders Agency and Marine Scotland Compliance.

The purpose of the operation was focussed on the illegality arising from and associated with the gathering, holding, transportation and placing on the market of shellfish, in particular winkles and cockles.

Investigations arising from the operations are continuing and in the course of the operation the Environmental Health Service took enforcement action to stop one food business placing shellfish onto the market. This action also involved a significant quantity of shellfish being removed from the food chain.

Graeme Corner, Highland Council’s Senior Environmental Health Officer said:

“We are trying to stop illegal harvesting of shellfish and the onward movement into the food chain. It is important to note that shellfish placed on the market out with the legitimate route can have significant detriment to the consumers’ health.

“Furthermore, as shellfish harvested from Scottish waters are distributed throughout the world, any allegation of ill health caused by consumption of Scottish shellfish is very likely to have an adverse impact on the reputation of all shellfish food businesses, not just those who have no regard to food safety by flouting the law.

It is for these reasons that we have embraced a multi-agency approach to investigate activities of this type.”

Gangmasters Licensing Authority Head of Operations Ian Waterfield said:

“Partnership initiatives such as this one are key to our work and a crucial took in protecting not only the health of the public but also the safety of the workers involved in gathering the shellfish.

“By law, anyone who uses workers to gather shellfish should be licensed by the GLA and subject to the rigorous checks that come with it. We were therefore happy to assist the other partners to check that both our licensing standards and legislation were adhered to.”

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