No pressure to open cockle beds

Cocklers at Lytham. Cockles being weighed.

Cocklers at Lytham. Cockles being weighed.

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COCKLERS will not be returning to Lytham’s shoreline for the foreseeable future, it’s been revealed.

Bad weather has hampered attempts by the authorities to assess the cockle beds –but the authority responsible claims fishermen aren’t clamouring to return.

The North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NW IFCA) had said it would work towards re-opening the Ribble Estuary cockle beds this week, but they’ve now told The Gazette no date has been set for the cockling ban to be lifted.

Dr Stephen Atkins, NW IFCA’s chief executive, said: “We still haven’t been able to adequately survey the cockle beds, so we don’t know what stocks are like.

“The weather hasn’t been suitable to carry out a survey. We were due to go out on Monday but the fog on Sunday night prevented the boat going out.”

The cockle beds attracted hundreds of cockle-pickers between September and November, with many accessing them from Lytham’s Seafield Road.

But they had to be shut in November amid safety fears, after RNLI lifeboat crews received 25 call-outs in just two months.

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As well as working with Fylde Council to address safety concerns, NW IFCA is also keen to establish whether the cockle stocks have recovered.

And Dr Atkins said the condition of the beds meant cockle-pickers weren’t clamouring to return to the Ribble Estuary.

He added: “The industry is content for the beds to be closed because the cockles are not in a good condition for commercial sale.

“There’s no prospect of them being re-opened at the moment.”

The cockling season runs September to April, with all beds closed over the summer months.

However, during a series of meetings between local fishermen, Fylde Council and NW IFCA it has been suggested it may be safer for cockle-pickers to access the Ribble Estuary beds over the summer.

Local fishermen believe July to October would be the best time for cockling.

A spokesman for Fylde confirmed they were awaiting the results of NW IFCA’s investigations.