A MAJOR blow looks set to be dealt to local cocklers after the fisheries authority revealed it has no plans to re-open Ribble Estuary cockle beds yet.
Cocklers have been banned from the sands at Lytham since the start of November but had hoped they would be receive a lifeline when the closure is reviewed next week.
But a report ahead of the North West Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority’s (NWIFCA) meeting has revealed chief executive Dr Stephen Atkins has no plans to lift the ban before the New Year – and it could be as late as March before cocklers are allowed to return.
For local fisherman like Paul Sumner, who had hoped some cockling revenue would help them through the winter months, the news is a disappointment.
The cockle beds were closed amid safety fears and Mr Sumner, from Lytham, said: “We’re disappointed because we’re working out there anyway and being denied earning a steady income.
“We work in more dangerous conditions than being on the cockle beds, but we can understand closing it on safety fears for the other men, and they can’t have one rule for one.
“The cockles would have given us a regular income through January and February even if it was just two or three days a week so it’s a shame if they don’t open it again until March.”
The RNLI and Coastguard received 25 call-outs from the cockle beds opening on September 1 until they were closed on November 7.
And Dr Atkins is now recommending the beds are not reopened until the beginning of February or March, when it is hoped better weather and longer days will prevent a repeat of the chaos caused by untrained and poorly equipped amateurs.
There were also concerns about undersize cockles being taken from the beds.
A final decision about the closure will be made at Tuesday’s meeting, which is expected to see NW IFCA ratify removing the right to gather 5kg of cockles without a licence.