PROTECTED plants on Shoreham Beach are being snatched for sale to top London restaurants.
Residents are furious that sea kale on the nature reserve is being hacked off by ‘environmental vandals’ and people are being asked to be vigilant.
There have been several reports of men with black plastic sacks harvesting the tender young shoots of the plant, which forms part of the rare vegetated shingle area.
It is prized by some as a delicacy similar to asparagus and restaurants in London are said to be paying premium prices for the shoots, then charging ‘top dollar’ to customers.
Joss Loader, chairman of Shoreham Beach Residents’ Association, said: “Sea kale is one of the rare protected plants that flourishes within the local nature reserve and needs our protection.”
People are asked to note registration numbers and report anything suspicious to the police and the Environment Agency.
There are few other vegetated shingle beaches in the south east and even fewer in New Zealand and Japan, so it is a rare habitat worldwide.
Liza McKinney, Adur councillor for Shoreham Beach, said: “I never cease to be amazed how easily some people find it to desecrate a unique and beautiful aspect of nature for transitory monetary gain.
“It is illegal to remove plants from a nature reserve.”