Poaching on Solway affecting cockle stocks

Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson has taken the Scottish Government to task over the cockle fishery on the Solway, given the high levels of poaching that are currently being experienced. Speaking from his constituency office, Mr Fergusson said: “As everyone locally knows, the current levels of poaching are very high, with organised squads cleaning out the cockle beds, at a time of year when the cockles are breeding and should be left alone. Not only does this put uncertified and illegal cockles into the food chain, but it completely destroys any possibility of a mature cockle stock that might have been legitimately fished later in the year. The Police and Marine Scotland appear to be either unwilling or powerless to act, which I find astonishing, but my real concern is the damage that this illegal activity is doing to the prospect of building up a truly sustainable local industry.

“The Scottish Government position has always been that any cockle fishery must be managed by the holder of a Regulating Order. Since the unlamented demise of the SSMA (Solway Shellfish Management Association), there is no holder of a Regulatory Order and the fishery has been closed – to everyone except poachers. Before a Regulatory Order can be put in place, or a Several Order to permit the harvesting of cockles, a robust scientific study has to be undertaken. Such a study is prohibitively expensive – and so we end up simply going round in circles.

“Yet the tragic thing is that there could be a perfectly sustainable industry here on the Solway, based on artificially seeded cockle beds along with the natural stock under effective management. There are people willing to invest in it, and people with expertise willing to work in it, yet we do not appear to have a Government willing to work with local interests to bring it about. I have therefore taken the matter up once again with the Scottish Government in an effort to achieve the potential that this form of aquaculture undoubtedly holds.