COCKLERS are set to be regulated by a new permit scheme as the industry bids to prevent a repeat of last year’s chaos in Lytham.
A new byelaw could mean only 500 fishermen are allowed on to the beds in the estuary – and they would have to pay £500 a year to get their hands on a permit.
But despite calls from cocklers, the North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) has said it has no plans to make changes to the cockling season – May 1 to August 31 – to allow cocklers to take advantage of the better weather.
The beds – accessed from Seafield Road in Lytham – were closed in November amid safety concerns following a spate of rescues by local RNLI crews.
Dr Stephen Atkins, NWIFCA chief executive, said: “We have received requests to open earlier however the authority is concerned that in most years fishing in July and August would damage any developing juvenile cockle stocks.
“Also in recent years there have not been commercial stocks of sized cockles in this district in summer months.”
Cocklers had hoped to get back on the beds this season, but the authority said bad weather meant it had been unable to survey Lytham’s Foulnaze beds and they will now wait until April to assess their condition.
Fylde Council has been working closely with NWIFCA to manage the cockle beds, and has been holding regular meetings to liaise with local residents and fishermen.
Fylde Council plan to send out a formal response to the proposals following a meeting with NWIFCA.
Coun Tommy Threlfall, cabinet member for environment and partnerships, said: “We put an official response together which will propose the safe working of cockling in the Ribble Estuary and guarantee the interests of residents.
“Our initial response is that I’m pleased with the NWIFCA proposal but require more detail.”
The new byelaw will be discussed when NWIFCA officials meet on Friday, and it’s hoped it can be implemented at the authority’s June meeting.