Police may get extra powers to turn tide against rogue cockle-pickers
THE police could be handed enforcement powers to crack down on illegal cockle picking that costs the Scottish economy tens of thousands of pounds a month.
Scotland’s fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead promised an action plan to help curb the poaching of cockles along the Dumfries and Galloway coastline, after a summit was held on the issue yesterday.
For the past year it has been illegal to cockle pick anywhere on the Scottish side of the Solway because of over-fishing in the past, although only Marine Scotland has the powers to pursue those accused of breaking the law.
However, Mr Lochhead said that he would now look at handing the police powers to arrest gangs reported to be illegally harvesting cockles in the area and causing a disturbance to local communities.
The pledge from Mr Lochhead came after yesterday’s meeting was called amid public anger that cockle beds in the Solway Firth were being cleaned out.
The minister asked Marine Scotland to invite public bodies and representatives of local interests to the meeting in Dumfries, with the police, Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency among those attending.
Concerns were raised at the meeting about the illegal activities, which have continued for over 18 months despite several hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on trying to licence the cockle fishing. Marine Scotland, which represented Mr Lochhead at the meeting, faced calls for tougher action against those who flout the ban, amid fears that cockle pickers are putting their lives in danger as well as those of members of the rescue services.
Mr Lochhead said that he would now look at how the authorities could co-operate to tackle illegal cockle picking as well as considering new enforcement powers for the police.
He said: “Marine Scotland officials held a productive meeting in Dumfries to discuss measures to effectively deal with illegal cockling in the Solway Firth. A number of options are now being considered to ensure that the existing ban can be upheld and local disturbances removed.
“A strategy will be prepared to allow all public bodies with an interest in the issue to work more closely together, including sharing intelligence.
“Proposals are being considered on additional enforcement powers, as well as changes to how existing offences are specified that could make them easier to enforce.
“I would like to thank all interested parties for attending the meeting today. Marine Scotland will shortly circulate a report of the meeting to all attendees and I look forward to appropriate measures being implemented that will help to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east