A spokesperson from Southend Council said: “Illegal oyster picking often involves exploitation of undocumented workers, with many being subjected to bonded labour – living in substandard accommodation and being paid very little for a highly dangerous job.
“What’s more, illegal harvesting undermines and undercuts the borough’s legitimate shellfish harvesters and any subsequent food poisoning outbreak could severely damage our international reputation for quality.
“We have a duty to protect public health, protect our shellfish industry and protect the reputation of Southend and Essex as a whole.
“We work closely with the police, Food Standards Agency and Home Office to tackle illegal shellfish harvesting. Indeed, so far this year we have already seized two consignments of illegally harvested oysters and given public health advice to groups who appeared to be collecting for non-commercial activity.
“We strongly urge anyone who sees suspicious harvesting activity to report it immediately on 01702 215005 or, if the incident has stopped, raise it on southend.gov.uk/mysouthend so the Council Environmental Health Section still receives the information.”Stirring stuff! So, it's good to see that the council takes this seriously, and is poised to swoop into act...
A large group of up to 17 people harvesting shellfish, including mussels and cockles, were spotted from Eastern Esplanade at around 8am Sunday.
The group were reportedly split into two teams who swept an area over five hours, approximately 200 metres from the beach opposite the Castle pub.Five hours...?!
Peter Sanders, 73, who witnessed the operation from his home in Eastern Esplanade, said: “They were collecting black sacks full – surely many more than you could possibly need for personal consumption. We have reported similar incidents to the police before, and they have attended, but this time we didn’t get the same response.”I guess they didn't read their own council's boasts.