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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Cockle pickers confront executive
Mark James
Mark James will meet the cockle pickers within a week
Cockle pickers - angry over the closure of cockle beds in the county - have confronted the chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council.

About 30 cocklers picketed Mark James as he arrived at the launch of plans for a race course at Trimsaran on Wednesday morning.

They demanded a meeting with him to discuss the beds at the Burry Inlet, which have been closed on and off for the past three years due to diuretic shellfish poisoning.

Cockler Glyn Hyndman said they had been trying to meet with council officials for months, but with little success.

"We feel we have been let down badly by the council and the Food Standards Agency.

"If there is something wrong with the beds, let's have it out in the open.

Glyn Hyndman
Glyn Hyndman was among the pickers who broke the ban
"Let's stop people fishing there, let's stop them bathing there.

"We do not believe there is anything wrong. We believe the tests are to blame.

"They are inside eating prawn sandwiches, and we desperately need a meeting - time is running out."

Mr James told the crowd he was not prepared to discuss the matter on the street.

"I'm happy to meet with you all when I have my officers with me so we can have a genuine discussion," he said.

He retreated into the hall where the exhibition for the proposed race course is being held.

On Tuesday, over 35 people defied the ban on picking cockles in Burry Port, despite facing six months in prison or a maximum fine of 20,000 if caught and prosecuted.

I know that these men are facing hardship and we're doing everything we can to work through it
Mark James, chief executive
The cocklers have now been promised a meeting will be set up within the next couple of days.

Spokesman Mr Hyndman said there were 55 licensed cockle pickers out of work and another 140 in ancillary industries also affected.

But he said they will not defy the ban again because of the fines involved.

Obliged

Mark James told BBC News Online: "They've not actually rang and asked for a meeting with me.

"I'm not one of these people who sit in the office so they're welcome to meet with me.

"My PA has already spoken to them to fix up a meeting within the next week where there will be officers from environmental health and I'm trying to see if I can get someone from the Food Standards Agency.

"I know that these men are facing hardship and we're doing everything we can to work through it."

He said by law the council was obliged to take samples under FSA rules and if these failed, the authority was obliged to close the bed.


SEE ALSO:
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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