In 2004 we had one of the worst tragedies of recent times on our doorstep in Morecambe when the Chinese cocklers died. What has happened since then? Well we have had the beds closed to all cockling, then re-opened then closed again. Morecambe Bay was closed to cockling in 2009 and has not re-opened. Unfortunately the closures are not caused by the need for safety but because of depletion of stocks. so no fishing is allowed.
Cockling still went on near Lytham up to a couple of weeks ago when the beds there were closed. Again the closure was not for safety grounds but was caused by depleted stocks. This isn't to say that the issue of safety has gone away. Another tragedy is waiting to happen. How can this be? We don't allow fishing to go on without the correct equipment and without a permit, however it was in the news a few years ago that it was easier to get a permit to go cockling than it was to fish on the canal.
I am sure that there a lot of people with a lot of answers but we need an answer now to prevent another tragedy. For what it's worth, I believe we should change the idea of 'fishing' for cockles to thinking about farming them. Let farmers have land which is theirs to police. We would not have the problem of anyone drowning including gangmasters or Chinese or Russians or anyone else who does not know the water.
At least we won't have another disaster while the beds are shut, but they will re-open when the stocks are replenished.
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