COCKLE beds on the River Ribble could be closed for months following the discovery of extremely high levels of E.Coli in cockle samples.
West Lancashire Environmental Health Department took the samples earlier this month in the build-up to a four-week cockling window on the Foulnaze Bank in the estuary.
But the results showed the cockles to be unfit for human consumption, even if cooked.
Coun Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council’s environment spokesman, said: “Health and safety is paramount so if the cockles have been deemed unfit for human consumption, there is very little to be said.
“I have been working closely with the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) in a bid to ensure we don’t have a repeat of the Morecambe Bay disaster here.
“We have been putting a plan together to ensure the beds can be harvested safely but this will not be needed if the beds are unsafe.”
Stephen Atkins, of the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, said: “Cockles in the Ribble area are unfit for human consumption and dangerous to eat, even if cooked.
“Trade in Ribble cockles is prohibited until further notice.
“Due to these circumstances outside the control of the NWIFCA, the planned fishery for Foulnaze Bank will not open on July 25 and will remain closed until further notice.”
Regulations require at least two consecutive uncontaminated samples to be measured at least seven days apart before a classification can be given, and it may take significantly longer than two weeks for contamination to return to acceptable levels, according to NWIFCA.
The NWIFCA will not be issuing permits for the Foulnaze Bank until contamination begins to decrease and there is reasonable indication that the fishery may open.
Applicants may continue to send in paperwork for permits by post so that paperwork can continue to be processed, but are requested not to call in person as this will delay the issuing of permits.