ACCORDING to Fylde Council, the number of cockling permits should be reduced and daily catch quotas introduced when the Ribble estuary’s cockle beds re-open.
The North West Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (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.
Councillor Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council cabinet member for Environment and Partnerships, met Dr Stephen Atkins, North West IFCA Chief Executive, on Monday to ask for a plan to better manage the cocklers once the beds have reopened.
IFCA is already working to revise cockling permits and Councillor 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;
· A change to the cockling closed season (currently May to August) to better protect spawning cockles while allowing cockling to take place from July to December when sea conditions are safer.
Councillor Threlfall said: “The interests of residents and legitimate cocklers are paramount and reducing the numbers of cocklers will allow better policing of their activities.
“The scenes we saw last autumn were entirely unacceptable. Far too many cocklers descended on the area and left litter all over the place. Their net sacks are still turning up and creating an eyesore for walkers on the shore and a hazard to other fishermen.
“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.
“These are decisions for IFCA but the council feels it has to make representations on behalf of residents who were greatly inconvenienced last year. Dr Atkins listened with interest and will now go away to consider the points more closely.”