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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Cockle industry could get lift
mussel depressed, 'cousin of the cockle'
The mussel is the cockle's more popular 'cousin'
Environment Agency officials are preparing to survey cockle beds on the Dee Estuary to decide whether three years of restrictions governing cockling will be lifted.

The agency put restrictions on cockle fishing in the area amid fears shellfish could be wiped out.

But the reintroduction of the industry on a large scale could mean a 1.5m boost to the local economy.

It took four years to re-open one section of the Dee beds and, earlier in the month, cocklers were warned more areas could be closed because some fisheren had breached their zones.

Thousands of people had taken to the estuary and indiscriminate cockling threatened to destroy it for ever, with the beds stripped to a dangerously low level.

But cocklers have warned shellfish are now in danger of dying through overcrowding and business owners are meeting Environment Agency officials to attempt to get the restrictions overturned.

It could mean a multi-million pound industry re-starting in north-east Wales.

The agency has said it will inspect the beds after the meeting and decide on whether to re-open more beds so that mature cockles can be fished again.

On Monday, agency officials negotiated with cockler business owners, who said good progress had been made.

The cocklers are hopeful more zones will be opened.

The officials said they will only take that action if they see proof of increased supplies.

In January, the Environment Agency drew up plans for more responsible, sustainable cockling in the Dee in a bid to get away from "boom and bust" harvesting.

Licenced cocklemen would be selected from among those who have a proven track record.

See also:

24 Aug 99 | Northern Ireland
Shellfish farmers threaten wildlife site - claim
29 Aug 99 | Wales
Festival draws restaurateurs
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