Illegal cockle, crab and lobster picking stopped on Teesside

People walking towards the beach in Redcar Image copyright NEIFCA
Image caption Up to 40 people travelled to the area in an attempt to remove cockles and shellfish on a "commercial scale".

Dozens of people trying to harvest cockles, undersized crab and lobster illegally to sell to restaurants have been stopped.

Police, fisheries officers and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority targeted Redcar beach and Bran Sands, South Gare, Teesside over two days.

Cockles found in Redcar and Cleveland are not fit for human consumption and could be fatal if eaten by children.

No arrests have been made.

Fisheries officers returned around 50kg of undersized brown crab, 15kg of velvet swimming crab and two undersized lobster to the sea on Tuesday.

Up to 40 people, who travelled from Leeds, attempted to remove shellfish on a "commercial scale" to supply to restaurants.

A family who were found to be picking cockles to use in a commercial restaurant in the Northumbria Police force area was also spoken to.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, which was created 15 years ago after 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay, carried out the operation alongside Cleveland Police and the North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

Insp Dave Glass, from Cleveland Police's Complex Exploitation Team, said: "We did not make any arrests with regards to exploitation or human trafficking but the visibility of our operation is an important warning that agencies are working together on these issues."

Information will be passed to the Food Standards Agency for further investigation.

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