Disturbance of intertidal soft-sediment benthic communities by cockle hand raking

M. J. Kaiser*, G. Broad, S. J. Hall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Recent awareness of the ecosystem effects of fishing activities on the marine environment means that there is a pressing need to evaluate the direct and indirect effects of those activities that may have negative effects on non-target species and habitats. The cockle, Cerastoderma edule (L.) is the target of a commercial and artisanal fishery that occurs in intertidal and estuarine habitats across Northern Europe. Cockles are harvested either mechanically using tractor dredges or suction dredges or by large numbers of individual fishers using hand rakes. This study examined the effects of hand raking on the non-target species and under-sized cockles associated with intertidal cockle beds and the effects of size of the patch of sediment disturbed on subsequent recolonisation. Hand raking led to an initial three-fold increase in the damage rate of under-sized cockles compared with control plots. The communities in both small and large raked plots showed community changes relative to control plots 14 days after the initial disturbance. The small raked plots had recovered 56 days after the initial disturbance whereas the large raked plots remained in an altered state. Samples collected over a year later indicated that small-scale variations in habitat heterogeneity had been altered and suggest that while effects of hand raking may be significant within a year, they are unlikely to persist beyond this time-scale unless there are larger long-lived species present within the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2001


  • Benthic community
  • Cockle
  • Fishing disturbance
  • Intertidal
  • Recovery rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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