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HIT IN THE POCKET; Cockler stands to lose PS30k after beds shut due to illegal picking.

Byline: SARAH HODGSON Daily Post Reporter sarah.hodgson@trinitymirror.com

A COCKLER says he will lose out on thousands of pounds as Natural Resources Wales close cockle beds on the Dee Estuary for the season.

Dwindling stock levels on the estuary have resulted in the ban which one cockler says has left fisherman "absolutely gutted".

The cockler, who did not want to be named, says he stands to lose around PS30,000 due to the ban which he blames on people illegally picking "tonnes" of cockles under the cover of darkness.

He also slammed officials from Natural Resources Wales saying he believes that they are not doing enough to tackle illegal cockling.

Natural Resources Wales announced the closure of the beds last week, saying over-cropping last year, illegal cockle picking as well as natural causes have left them "no choice" but to close the Dee cockle beds for 2015.

The body added that it hoped by taking this "difficult decision" now that it can secure the sustainability of the fishery for future years.

The ban will affect 53 commercial cockle pickers who currently hold licences and it will be the first time since 2008 that officials have had to close the estuary's cockle beds.

The cockler said: "It's all been brought about by the beds being overfished - there are tonnes and tonnes of cockles being taken by illegal cocklers in the night over the English border.

"Not enough is being done to enforce or take action against illegal cockling. MPs on both sides of the border as well as Assembly Ministers need to help stop this happening."

But Tim Jones, executive director for Operations North and Mid Wales, Natural Resources Wales, said the body took the problem of illegal cockling on the Dee estuary very seriously.

He said: "As a result of the work of our enforcement officers there are several ongoing prosecutions due to be heard in court over the summer.

"In a normal year we could expect to find many thousands of tonnes of juveniles in the estuary, but the latest survey recorded just 450 tonnes of juveniles prompting the difficult decision not to open the beds.

"We will continue to work hard to control activities such as over-cropping and illegal cockling as well as to improve our understanding of the natural fluctuations of the cockle populations in the Dee estuary, all of which are important factors in ensuring we have a sustainable future for the Dee estuary cockle beds."

It currently costs PS992 to obtain a licence and those who are caught dredging, fishing or taking cockles without one can be fined up to PS5,000.

You do not need a licence to fish for cockles if you collect less than 5kg a day by hand for your own consumption.

Delyn MP David Hanson said it is "absolutely vital" that there is a crackdown on illegal cockling.

He added: "Many cocklers in North Wales have fought hard to get legitimate licences and it undermines the whole process if illegal cockling is taking place.

"There needs to be a clear explanation of what has caused this temporary cessation of cockling, because the licensing system was put in place to ensure continuity of cockling supply."

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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 19, 2015
Words:543
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