Beds closure confirmed

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COCKLE picking on the Fylde Coast is set to be outlawed until 2013.

The Foulnaze bed, off the coast of Lytham and St Annes, was recently harvested by pickers under strict guidance from the North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA), and Fylde Council.

The bed, which was re-opened in August, was carefully monitored after an increase in illegal and dangerous picking lead to a huge number of call outs for the RNLI in 2011.

An agreement was reached that 750 tonnes of cockles could be picked, but with numbers passing 800 tonnes, the beds were closed on Friday until further notice.

Dr Stephen Atkins, chief executive of the North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority confirmed the beds closure, adding they would provisionally remain shut until April 2013.

He said: “Approximately 800 tonnes of cockles have been harvested since August 1.

“This exceeds the catch limit of 750 tonnes agreed with Natural England. Therefore the cockle fishery in the Ribble will be closed until further notice. We need to test the beds for stock levels, then decide whether they can re-open in winter or whether it will be next year.

“All permits for August 2012 are revoked and the fishery is again subject to the closed season.

“With stocks throughout the Ribble cockle beds at a generally low level, the NWIFCA has decided to close the entire Ribble estuary to cockle fishing from September 1 under NWIFCA Byelaw 13A.

“The closure applies to all people fishing for cockles, whether for pleasure or profit.”

Byelaw 13A outlines an area across the Ribble where the beds cannot be picked, confirming their provisional closure until midnight, Tuesday April 30.

The closed area is any part of the Ribble Estuary enclosed by a line drawn due west from Starr Gate, Blackpool, to a line due west of Weld Road, Southport.

A spokesman for Fylde council said: “We will support whatever decision the NWIFCA make with regards the cockling.

“We will help them and when cockling does return to the area, provide extra support and extra provisions to reduce the impact upon residents.

“Working alongside the Marine Coastguard Agency, NWIFCA and Police, cockling in August was a success. We hope it continues to be.”