Cockling delay ‘until spring’

Approximately 100 boats were expected in Lytham this afternoon after the Ribble cockle beds were re-opened.'Boats cover the beach.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'1-8-2012
Approximately 100 boats were expected in Lytham this afternoon after the Ribble cockle beds were re-opened.'Boats cover the beach. PIC BY ROB LOCK'1-8-2012

FYLDE cockle pickers will have to wait until at least March before they can start fishing the beds off the borough’s coastline.

That was the message from Dr Stephen Atkins, chief executive of the North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA), who blamed poor weather and a responsible need for the beds to flourish as the reasons for the delay.

He added: “In due course we will start again. Nothing is open at the moment. It’s all closed for the winter.

“We will revise the Ribble Fishery when the weather improves. At the moment, we haven’t been able to do so as it has been so poor.

“As it stands the fishery won’t be open until at least March.

“There was a stock of cockles left on the Foulnaze bed when we finished last year. This had to be left for birds and wildlife to feed on.

“We hope to look again at the situation in the spring, to see whether it will be possible for the Foulnaze bed to open in 2013.”

The beds first reopened in 2011, with thousands of cockles picked in two months.

However, the beds were soon closed after 26 coastguard rescues in the same period.

The beds re-opened to fishermen last year, but under much stricter guidelines, including no parking on residential streets in the area, cocklers having to operate from the Seafield Road slipway in Lytham, and all cockles have to be sold at sea and landed only at Preston dock, and boats and skippers requiring safety licences.

A NWIFCA spokesman added: “All cockle beds throughout the district are currently closed to conserve remaining cockles and provide breeding stock.

“The south side beds in the Ribble are unlikely to reopen until a new generation reaches market size. Throughout Autumn 2012, a large settlement of new cockle spat was detected throughout the Ribble. If this new generation of cockles successfully survives the winter and grows on, we hope it will reach market size by late 2013 and provide further good fishery in the Ribble for the future.”