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Council tackles environmental concerns over shellfish harvesting

Wirral Council is working with partners from a number of organisations to address concerns about the impact of shellfish harvesting off the coast around Leasowe Bay.

Licensed harvesting at Leasowe has been permitted since the start of September after it was found that cockles were of sufficient size and supply in that location to open the cockle beds up to commercial gathering.

The activities are regulated by the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NWIFCA) which works in co-operation with the local authority, Natural England and the Food Standards Agency to manage the harvesting activity.

The council has provided dedicated vehicle parking, bins and toilet facilities at a cost to the industry in an effort to ensure the activity doesn’t impact negatively on the local environment and on residents and visitors.

However, the arrangements are currently being reviewed as local people have expressed concerns over littering and other anti-social activities taking place close to the harvesting areas.

Cllr Phillip Brightmore, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “The people gathering shellfish off the coast at Leasowe have a legal right to be there, they are professionals and fully licensed by NWIFCA to operate.

“However, they also have a responsibility to be considerate to others – local residents, visitors and wildlife – as they go about their business and while the council has put measures in place to assist them, we have received reports that give us cause for concern.

“With that in mind, we are re-engaging with our partners to remind the licensed gatherers of their responsibilities and we will seek to take enforcement action if littering or other issues continue around this location.”

The harvesting season is open while viable stock is sufficiently plentiful or until April 30th 2018, whichever comes soonest. The numbers of people permitted to work on the cockle beds is strictly controlled by NWIFCA and they are restricted as to how they carry out the harvesting – by hand only – and over how they access the beach.

In addition to this, the industry has also agreed to take steps to reduce noise levels, particularly during the night-time.

Cllr Brightmore added: “We take the concerns raised seriously and while we have already put measures in place to help minimise the impact on local people and the local environment, it is right that we continue to monitor activities and take action where necessary. 

“If anyone commits environmental crime whilst in the borough they will be subject to fixed penalty notices and the costs associated with cleaning up after them recovered. Wirral Council will not tolerate environmental crime.”