Bacteria concerns halts all cockle gathering in estuary
COCKLE gathering in all parts of Carmarthenshire's three rivers estuary has been banned with immediate effect until further notice, council bosses have said.
The move has been taken because of a series of cockle quality failures in Carmarthenshire Council's shellfish sampling programme.
The three rivers estuary covers the Towy, Taf and Gwendraeth estuaries in the county.
Bacteria samples were taken last week in the Llansteffan area, south of Carmarthen, after the cockle beds opened for one day — some three months earlier than expected.
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Following the tests, council head of public protection, Philip Davies, said: "We've had some laboratory results which show that bacteriology of the cockles in the three rivers estuary is poor and I will have to prohibit gathering as a result.
"The testing was carried out as part of our regular sampling regime."
The beds at Llansteffan and at Cefn Sidan in Pembrey were due to open for four days over a two week period.
However, it is not known when cockling will be allowed to restart.
The fact that the Welsh Government gave the go-ahead for the beds to be opened at all came as a surprise to members of the Three Rivers Estuary Action Group (TREAG).
The opening and sudden closure of the beds has sparked member Stuart Lane to call for TREAG to meet and make fresh calls for greater regulations over cockle picking across the three rivers area.
Speaking about the issue, he said: "The beds were not due to open until September.
"We weren't given any prior notice from the council or the Welsh Government about the decision to open the beds for a two week period."
He said people in Llansteffan were taken aback to learn that cockles were being picked upstream of Wharley point, around the coast from the village.
"With the concern over bacteria and the beds now closed again, it is time TREAG pushed the Welsh Government again over getting a regulatory order in place on the three rivers estuary."
"This will enable cockling to be controlled with only a limited number of licences. The long-term aim is to establish a sustainable cockle industry on the estuary."
The Welsh Government confirmed the cockle beds will not reopen until samples are safe.