Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Bed closed after cockles dwindle

Cockle stocks have dropped by 63% on the Solway

A dramatic drop in cockle stocks in south west Scotland has forced the closure of the Solway fishery.

Surveys have shown a 63% fall in supplies of the shellfish in the area in the space of a single year.

It has prompted the Solway Shellfish Management Association (SSMA) to decide there can be no fishing this winter.

Cockling was banned in the area in 2002 in order to allow stocks to recover but reopened again four years later when a licensing system was introduced.

However, a survey this year by the Fisheries Research Services revealed a sharp drop in fish levels.

Stocks had fallen from 10,500 tonnes in 2007 to just 3,815 tonnes 12 months later.

'Major challenge'

The decline has been blamed on the lack of successful growth of young cockles, combined with the loss of older shellfish.

It is believed that winter storms may have wiped out the new cockles.

SSMA chairman Alistair Geddes said there was simply no surplus of fish of commercial size available.

"This is hugely disappointing to the fishermen who depend on these stocks for part of their income but is a natural feature of this cockle fishery," he said.

"It presents the SSMA with a major challenge as it is dependent on the fishery for its income and the board will be examining its options over the next couple of months."

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