Emergency action to stop danger trade CHINESE COCKLE GANGS SPARK HEALTH ALERT GANGS of Chinese sparked a serious public's health by cockle-picking on Emergency laws passed to halt the across a large section; COCKLING BAN.
GANGS of Chinese migrants sparked a serious risk to the public's health by cockle-picking on Teesside.
Emergency laws have been passed to halt the practice across a large section of the North-east coast after it emerged unregulated pickers were back door-selling to restaurants.
Authorities stepped in to impose the ban amid fears that Middlesbrough-based gangs could be peddling potentially lethal seafood. It came amid fears the cockles could contain e-coli and other sewage bugs. The gangs had been collecting fromthe rear ofHartlepoolMarina for unauthorised sale to Teesside. restaurants. It is not known how many residents may have eaten the cockles. But the authorities say the quality of water in the Middleton basin has not been established. Experts say eating cockles gathered from it could result in serious stomach problems - which can be fatal in children and the elderly. The North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NEIFCA) has rushed through an emergency fisheries bylaw to put an immediate halt to the cockle-picking after receiving an anonymous tip-off. It is only the second time such powers have been enacted in England since legislation was passed in 2009 to manage fisheries activities. Cockling is not illegal for personal use in the UK. But NEIFCA chief officer David McCandless told the Gazette the bylaw would halt all cockling in an area stretching from Crimdon in County Durham to Staithes in North Yorkshire. It includes Stockton, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, and adjacent areas. Anyone breaching the bylaw - brought in on June 28 - could, upon conviction, be fined up to pounds 50,000. Mr McCandless said the gangs were all of Chinese origin. "These were unregulated operations involving individuals of about five or six gatherers from the Middlesbrough area. They were supplying by the back door to restaurants in the Teesside. area he added "Because there is no water quality designation at Hartlepool there was a considerable public health risk. "Cockles are filter feeders and so can assimilate sewage and cause e-coli and other infections. "These can be life-threatening in the young and the elderly." The NEIFCA has no knowledge of anyone being seriously ill. But Mr McCandless added: "There is now a total cockling ban in this region until August 31 - but we may extend this beyond that by up to a year." He said the authority was not aware of the existence of a gang leader on Teesside., but added that investigations were continuing. Mr McCandless added: "These cocklers have been told in no uncertain terms of the penalty involved. "It appears to have been going on for the last few weeks. We had first reports in April. "We believe we have now nipped this in the bud." The measures have also been taken also to protect cockle stocks and the environment as, activities were damaging sensitive habitat areas. The bylaw - under section 157 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 - is to manage the collection and removal of all cockles in the Teesside. area. It was made to "manage the unforeseen, wholesale, unregulated collection of cockles in the Teesside. area by gangs of migrant operators working from Middlesbrough." Mr McCandless said: "This unregulated activity was totally unforeseen by our new authority. "It required urgent action to protect both the marine environment and reduced any health risks to the local population. It demonstrates that the new authority is serious about protecting and conserving local marine resources." The NEIFCA was established in April under the 2009 Act to manage and conserve sea fisheries resources. Its jurisdiction covers an area from South Tyneside to the north-east Lincolnshire coastline and seaward to a six-mile limit. Government agency the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) protects shellfish gatherers from exploitation. And intelligence team manager IanWalker said it was made aware of the issue with "predominantly Chinese persons gathering shellfish" in the Hartlepool early last month. The GLA has since been liaising with local authorities. "This is an area from which it is illegal under food safety laws to gather shellfish for human consumption for commercial purposes," he added. Mr Walker said the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 made it a criminal offence for anyone in the UK to use a worker - or supply a worker to gather, process, or pack shellfish - without a GLA licence. "This follows the Morecambe Bay disaster in 2004, when 21 cockle pickers drowned," he said. "At present, there are no surrounding areas who are licensed to use or supply workers in the shellfish sector." Anyone doing so may be committing a criminal offence which carries a maximum 10-year jail term. Wallace Wilson, an officer at the UK Border Agency, said officials are to meet the NEIFCA to discuss this issue. He added it was not yet known whether the cocklers involved were legal migrants. Hartlepool and StocktonCouncil said they were not aware of any sales of illegal cockles for sale in their area.
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|Title Annotation:||News; Front Page|
|Publication:||Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)|
|Date:||Jul 14, 2011|
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