Operation Pearl targets illegal harvesting of shellfish in Chichester Harbour: Chichester District Council

Potentially hazardous shellfish were seized by authorities on Tuesday 17 August, as part of Operation Pearl.

Months of covert investigations had taken place to understand how the illegally harvested shellfish is reaching food businesses and consumers.

This has led to a number of agencies, including Chichester District Council, Sussex Police, the Food Standards Agency, National Food Crime Unit, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, and the Gangmaster Labour Abuse Authority, working together to tackle suspected harvesters and any businesses taking this product.

Shellfish that are not harvested from monitored areas maybe unsafe for human consumption. They can carry E coli, norovirus or be contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals.

Chichester District Council said that this is a growing problem in coastal areas across the country.

“This is a very complex issue and one which we have been working on for some time. We have tried various ways to discourage harvesters from collecting shellfish from the harbour, and this work has led to a multi-agency approach. The fact that we are working with such a wide variety of partners on this operation and have collected so much evidence, sends a strong message to the harvesters, and the food businesses that buy from them, that we will not tolerate this behaviour,” says Councillor Penny Plant, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Chichester Contract Services at Chichester District Council.

“We are going to review the further evidence we have collected from the operation, which may result in legal proceedings against the offenders. We would also like to thank members of the public who have assisted us with regular information on these matters.

“The commercial collection of shellfish is tightly regulated, and shellfish sold on the black market could have serious consequences for public health and will damage the reputation of the industry.”

Date of Release: 18 August 2022

Reference: 4152

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