Strangford Lough candidate SAC, Northern Ireland

The hand collection of intertidal animals from the shores of Strangford Lough is a traditional activity in the area. Bait digging for lugworms and ragworms takes place on sediment shores, where cockles are also collected. Winkles and peeler crabs are collected for personal consumption and for fishing bait, respectively.

Extensive intertidal areas of the Lough are in private ownership, and private ownership of subtidal areas is also claimed (but disputed by the Crown Estate Commissioners). The National Trust is one of the major land-owners in the area (following transfer of land formerly part of the Londonderry Estate). The National Trust has made byelaws to protect the areas of land and the habitats and species it supports which prohibit the disturbance, injury or destruction of any living creature (so far as this does not affect the rights of any person).

The judgement of Mr Justice Girvan in the case of Adair v The National Trust upheld the common law right of a member of the public to gather shellfish (winkles and/or whelks) from the waters, bed, and the foreshore of the Lough owned by the National Trust. There can be no discrimination between individuals who fish – whether commercially or as a recreation. The judgement considered that the public right to fish in tidal waters is usually extended to include the collection of fish, including shellfish, on the exposed foreshore when the tide is out. This conclusion was partly based on the consideration that the common law right to collect shellfish from tidal waters permitted the removal of shellfish during periods of high water from areas that would become foreshore later in the tidal cycle, and that it was not logical to exclude collection from the same areas when the tide went out.

The court also decided that members of the public could take worms from the foreshore as an ancillary to the public right to fish, but not otherwise (e.g. not commercially).

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