COCKLING is finally set to return today after a health-scare delayed the re-opening of the Lytham beds.
The news comes a month after plans to allow cocklers back out to sea had to be scrapped after the cockles contracted e-coli – and nine months after the operation was shut-down amid safety fears.
But now the North West Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) has declared the cockles safe, and Fylde Council has promised it will do everything in its power to minimise disruption to local residents as fishermen head back to the Seafield Road slipway.
Dozens are expected to head out on the afternoon tide, and St Annes fisherman Paul Sumner said: “We’re very pleased to be able to get back out onto the cockle beds.
“It should be better run now but only time will tell, the various agencies have got together and made a plan and we’re hoping it will work.”
A key change under NWIFCA’s strict new regulations is the requirement for all cockles to be sold direct to merchants on bigger boats in the estuary – a move Mr Sumner said will prevent small overloaded boats getting into difficulties and the council hope will reduce litter at Lytham.
Cockle boats will also only be allowed out on one tide per day from Monday to Thursday and must have a qualified skipper.
This is in a bid to prevent a repeat of the 25 call-outs the RNLI received in just two months last time they were open.
The decision to re-open the beds is NWIFCA’s, not the council’s, and Coun Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “We supported NWIFCA’s closure of the beds last year when a number of people cockle-fishing risked lives and caused a major nuisance to our residents and emergency services.
“Since the closure we have worked with all the agencies concerned to ensure the return this week will be with strict new controls and regulations which will lead to safe fishing in a controlled environment.
“The decision on the long-term future of cockling is one for NWIFCA, not the council.”
The beds are set to remain open until September 1.
While it is not in control of the future of cockling Fylde Council has promised to do everything it can to help residents.
Coun Threlfall added: “What the town hall will do is minimise disruption to local residents with a presence on the beach at every tide, along with extra litter bins and litter patrols.
“Our staff and NWIFCA staff will direct cockling vehicles to parking at the bottom of the slipway so neighbouring roads should remain free of vehicles linked to cockle fishing.
“The council also provides portable toilets. Our role is to minimise disruption for residents and none of it will cost council tax-payers a penny – the cockling merchants have agreed to meet the costs of the toilets, the litter bins and improvements to the slipway.”