A NUMBER of proposals have been put forward following a town hall meeting with a regional fisheries chief to avoid the chaotic cockling operation that occurred in the Ribble estuary last autumn.
Fylde councillor Tommy Threlfall, cabinet member for Environment and Partnerships, met Dr Stephen Atkins, North West Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) Chief Executive, to ask for a new plan to better manage the cocklers once the beds have reopened.
IFCA closed the beds in November after excessive numbers of cocklers caused nuisance to Lytham residents and strain on the public agencies that policed their activities.
A decision on reopening the beds will be made by IFCA once cockle stocks have recovered and once safety issues have been addressed.
IFCA is already working to revise cockling permits and Coun Threlfall told Dr Atkins that the revision should include:
A reduction in the number of permits and charges for permits to reduce the number of amateur fishermen venturing to sea.
Limiting the number of days per week and/or introducing a daily catch quota.
An insistence on vessel safety and cocklers’ safety training.
Designating areas of cockle fisheries as “commercial fisheries” to allow IFCA enforcement officers to keep a closer eye on the activities of commercial cocklers while still allowing ordinary members of the public their historic rights to gather small amounts of cockles on the foreshore.
Coun Threlfall said: “Cockling will and should return, but IFCA has to have better plans in place for when that happens. Residents and legitimate cocklers will benefit if we can get agreement on these points.” Dr Atkins and Coun Threlfall later met fishermen.
IFCA closed the Ribble estuary beds to protect the safety of fishermen – lifeboat crews were being frequently called out to rescue inexperienced fishermen – and to allow recovery of cockle stocks.