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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 15:01 GMT
'Lives at risk' off Solway coast
There have been reports that cocklers are risking their lives
An urgent action call has gone out to avoid a cockling death tragedy in beds on the Solway Firth.

The coastguard said warnings have not been heeded and Scottish National Party MSP Alasdair Morgan has called for tighter regulations.

The concerns follow reports that Polish workers had to be rescued twice last week off Powfoot, near Annan.

The Scottish Executive is to consider the issue on 1 February but Mr Morgan said this may not be soon enough.

Coastguard sector manager Tony Wood, who was involved in the search and rescue last week, said scares do not seem to put cocklers off.

"It doesn't appear to because the same people we warned on Wednesday went back on Thursday night," he said.

"So I think you are coming back to the fact that the financial reward for this illegal operation is greater than common sense.

'Potential dangers'

"When gangs or gang leaders are sending people out into the Solway in the dark with a flooding tide this is a very, very dangerous and bad practice," Mr Wood added.

South of Scotland MSP Mr Morgan said he fears an incident where many lives could be lost.

He said: "The potential dangers of the upper Solway cannot be overstated when we are talking about large numbers of people undertaking such operations miles from the shore in the middle of the night.

"Some of the gangs have ventured as much as eight miles offshore.

"Add to that the treacherous conditions underfoot and the ease with which someone who does not know the area could lose their bearings in the dark, as well as the notorious tides and we have without doubt a recipe for disaster."

'Acting irresponsibly'

Environment Minister Ross Finnie said: "We are very concerned by further reports about illegal fishing on the Solway and by reports of people going onto the foreshore at night or in poor conditions.

"We should be absolutely clear that the Solway is closed to cockle fishing of any type. Anyone fishing for cockles is breaking the law.

"They are also acting very irresponsibly in that they are risking their own lives as well as those of others who may be called upon to rescue them."

He added that the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency would continue to mount extended patrols and respond to reports of illegal activity.

A multi-agency meeting on the issue takes place on 1 February and the executive is also urging anyone spotting illegal cockling in the area to contact police or the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency.

Solway cockling equipment seized
16 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Gang fears prompt cockle warning
30 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Solway cocklers pin hopes on plan
08 Mar 04 |  Scotland

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