Fisheries Areas Network

FLAG Factsheet

North Thames FLAG --ARCHIVED as of 31 January 2020--

Official name: 
North Thames FLAG
Programming period: 


--ARCHIVED as of 31 January 2020--
The FLAG area covers the North Thames from Thurrock to Shoeburyness in Essex and is based around the port at Leigh-on-Sea. The port is the first when travelling up the Thames from London and has significant cultural importance in the area, attracting tourists from all over South East England. The major fisheries industry in Leigh-on-Sea is the cockle fishery which dominates much of the port. However, there are also several trawlers targeting mixed fisheries in the Greater Thames and Southern North Sea areas.

Most of the vessels based in the North Thames area are over 10m in length and are, therefore, due to the tide, limited to fishing for 12 or 24 hours periods or for only a few hours at high tide. The silting of the creek provides a major limitation to fishing in the area and has contributed to a decrease in vessels and fishermen in the area, moving elsewhere for more flexible fishing. One of the significant studies the FLAG will undertake is an investigation into the most sustainable solution for the infrastructure of the port and the dredging of the creek involving all port users in the process.

Other challenges include the lack of new entrants into the industry despite there being many jobs in fishing, a lack of local training facilities for retail and processing and environmental changes occurring in the estuary which are impacting on fisheries. The preservation of the ports cultural identity and its lack of support, despite attracting an overwhelming number of tourists throughout the year, also presents a challenge to the FLAG area.

Type of area:
Sea Basins:
Protected areas: 

The North Thames FLAG includes three specially protected areas, the Thames Estuary and Marshes, the Benfleet and Southend Marshes, and the Outer Thames Estuary. The conservation of habitats and species is a focus of each of these protected areas.

32 834
Surface area (km²)
98 185
Population density
Total employment in fisheries

FLAG strategy

Key strategies for the FLAG include: achieving a sustainable fishing industry in the North Thames area, recognising its importance to the area’s economic and cultural growth, and a closer connection between the sector and economic, environmental, social and tourism outcomes. This will lead to a more seaward facing community that embraces the ethos of a healthy and productive marine environment; it will also underpin the community’s local economy while fostering engagement with the industry economically and culturally.

Adding value, creating jobs, and promoting innovation along the fisheries chain
% of the budget allocated: 
Supporting diversification
Enhancing and capitalising on the environmental assets
Promoting social wellbeing and cultural heritage
Strengthening the role of fisheries communities in local development


Total public budget allocated to the FLAG for 2014-2020: 
920 000
  • EMFF: 
    695 000
  • MS co-financing: 
    225 000
  • Sources of co-funding: 


Project examples

Project examples and ideas include:

  • A feasibility study on the Leigh Port Infrastructure which will enable access to the Leigh Creek.
  • Gaining Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for Thames Estuary Cockles.
  • The planning, development and design of the Leigh Library Gardens, a hub for the promotion and marketing of fisheries in the town centre.
  • The collection of environmental data on the Thames Estuary to inform future activities and monitoring.
  • A ‘Leigh on Sea’ fishing documentary which will explore the culture and heritage of the fishing fleet.
  • A whelk population study which will genetically analyse whelk populations along the Thames Estuary.

Calls for proposals

The FLAG does not make calls for projects and therefore has no specific deadlines. Project submissions can be made at any time and submission guidance is provided on the FLAG website. Once a submission is received, it will be reviewed at the next FLAG board meeting.

Expertise & cooperation

The FLAG cooperates with the five other FLAGs across England. The FLAG is interested in transnational cooperation project with other FLAGs that are also situated in an estuary and is willing to exchange experiences and best practices. 

Budget envisaged for cooperation: 


Members of the partnership: 

Members include Cultural Engine CIC, a local social enterprise company which is joint lead partner for the FLAG, the Southend on Sea Borough Council, Leigh Town Council, Leigh Port Partnership, Southend Association of Voluntary Services, Port of London Authority, Natural England, Marine Management Organisation, Shoebury Watermans Association. The FLAG also includes several local fishermen, cockle pickers and boatyard owners.     

% of fisheries actors: 
% of public authorities and other: 
% of other (non-fisheries) private / NGO sector actors: 
% of environmental actors: 
% of public actors: 
Number of contracted staff in FLAG: 


FLAG Contacts

Thames Estuary Partnership
The Office of the Vice-Provost (Research), University College London, Room 117, 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AP
WC1H 0AP London
United Kingdom
FLAG President:
Mr. Andrew Rattley
FLAG Manager:
Ms. Anna Patel
+44 20 7679 8855
  • English (Mother tongue)
Publication date: 
PDF Version