Five people have been apprehended for illegal cockling after an operation in the Dee Estuary this week.
Natural Resources Wales enforcement officers seized sacks containing approximately 115Kg of cockles during the operation at Greenfield Dock in Flintshire.
The five people apprehended were all from the Flintshire area and aged 26, 28, 29, 30 and 32.
The operation was supported by officers North Wales Police.
Natural Resources Wales manages the cockling industry in the Dee estuary to maintain the delicate balance between the needs of the local economy and the area’s wildlife.
Illegal cockling threatens this balance and damages the livelihoods of the 53 licenced cocklers who make a living from the beds.
Tim Jones, Executive Director at Natural Resources Wales, said:
“The way we manage the cockles in the Dee estuary is a great example of how to work with nature to benefit the local economy.
“As it stands, we make sure the cocklers can earn a living, the beds are replenished for next year’s cockling season, and the birds of the estuary have enough to sustain a healthy population.
“We’re determined to do all we can to continue this success by supporting the industry and the area’s wildlife – and protect the cockles from illegal harvesting.”
The fortunes of the fishery have been turned around since 2008, when a new licensing system limiting the number of licenses was introduced.
Between 1993 and 2007, the cockle beds were closed more often than they were open, with eight out of the fifteen seasons not able to support any cockling.
When it was open, hundreds would be eligible for a permit, and the season would often last no more than a few days.
The new licensing system, means that 53 cocklers are now able to fish sustainably for six months of the year – and the estuary’s internationally important wildlife is also maintained.