Cockle beds to be closed

Photo : Ian Robinson'The Gangmaster's Licencing Association joint operation with other authorities on cockling in the Ribble estuary at Lytham
Photo : Ian Robinson'The Gangmaster's Licencing Association joint operation with other authorities on cockling in the Ribble estuary at Lytham

COCKLERS will be banned from the Ribble Estuary from Monday amid growing safety concerns.

Local fishermen have been left reeling by the North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority’s (IFCA) decision to close the beds, which they believe will make it impossible for them to earn a living this winter.

Fylde Council had hoped any closure would only last a few days while new bye-laws were implemented, but IFCA has made the decision to close the beds until further notice.

Untrained and poorly equipped cocklers have had to be rescued 26 times since the beds opened two months ago.

And, in a letter to the cocklers, IFCA’s chief executive Dr Stephen Atkins said this had forced the closure, which was the “only way to regulate this unsafe activity”.

Following a meeting with fisheries minister Richard Benyon yesterday, the council had been hopeful if the bed did have to close it would only be while new safety measures were implemented.

Coun Tommy Threlfall, the council’s cabinet member for Environment and Partnerships, said: “We are very concerned about the impact on local fishermen but, given the concerns of residents and the number of times the emergency services have been required to attend, we support a short ban to allow cockling to return in a better-ordered fashion.

“We are sad to see it come to this. Mr Benyon was right - a short closure would allow the introduction of an emergency bye-law which would bring the situation under control.”

The council understands the beds will be closed until April.

FULL STORY, SEE SATURDAY’S GAZETTE