Strangford Lough supports an important population of oystercatchers and an occasional cockle fishery. The cockle is the major prey of oystercatchers in Strangford Lough and so cockle fishing reduces their food supply. Cockle fishing in the lough occurs at low tide when the birds are feeding and so can also disturb birds away from their preferred feeding areas.
Would an increase in the amount of cockle fishing decrease the survival rate of oystercatchers.
A model was developed incorporating the oystercatchers, cockles and shellfishing. The numbers of oystercatchers and the abundance and distribution of cockles were obtained from surveys of the lough. The model predicted that the current low intensity of shellfishing was unlikely to be increasing the mortality rate of oystercatchers, but that large increases in shellfishing intensity could increase mortality.
Funding and Collaboration
Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland.