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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July, 2003, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Cockle pickers win support
Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James
Mark James was confronted by the cockle pickers last week
Out of work cockle gatherers have won support for their call for a change in the way shellfish are tested for poisons that have closed beds in west Wales.

A week to the day after they confronted Carmarthenshire council's chief executive Mark James over the crisis in the industry, the two sides sat down for talks on the problem.

A five-point plan was drawn up at a meeting held in Carmarthen on Wednesday in the hope of re-opening the beds in the Burry Inlet between Llanelli and Gower.

The beds have been closed on and off for more than two years because tests used by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have detected the presence of diuretic shellfish poisoning.

These are all genuine businessmen who want to be out earning a living and are all suffering badly
Cocklers representative Rory Parsons

The cocklers claim the method of testing is flawed and is different to tests used in Scotland, Ireland and other parts of the world which are not finding similar results and where beds remain open.

The council has agreed to contact the FSA nationally, press for an urgent meeting with Welsh assembly ministers and Westminster, and go to the European Commission.

It will also ask other local authorities in England and Wales to join them in a concerted effort to resolve the apparent confusion in testing methodology.

Cocklers' representative Rory Parsons, who operates a processing plant at Burry Port, said: "These are all genuine businessmen who want to be out earning a living and are all suffering badly.

"This was a very successful, useful meeting for the industry.

"We will now move on to speed this issue up and work together as a group.

Cockle pickers
The closure of the cockle beds has upset the workers

"With the help of the county council we can move this on a bit faster and press for the early solution we are looking for."

Mr James said: "We have to work with the FSA at a national level.

"A combined approach with other local authorities together with bringing political pressure to bear will hopefully speed things up.

"It should be one standard test in the UK, not different testing methods in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

"Our priority is to find an urgent solution to this problem which will enable the gatherers to go back to work, and also ensure the safety and quality of the product."

Cockle pickers confront executive
16 Jul 03  |  South West Wales
Cockle pickers defy ban
15 Jul 03  |  Wales
Call for cockle test re-think
19 Jun 03  |  South West Wales
Size is important for cockles
18 Apr 03  |  Cornwall
Court move to halt cockle fishing
11 Jan 03  |  Scotland
Toxin find halts cockle fishing
10 Oct 02  |  Wales

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