Ribble estuary cockler rescues: Coastguard in 23 call-outs

Cockles emptied into bucket The cocklers' hauls can fetch up to £1,200 a tonne at fish markets

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The coastguard agency has dealt with 23 incidents involving cockling in Lancashire's Ribble estuary since its cockle beds opened in September.

Twenty five people have been rescued while in distress. Another six were helped before getting into trouble, the agency said.

On Wednesday afternoon, five cocklers were helped by Lytham RNLI after their unseaworthy boat's engine failed.

There have been fears among locals of a repeat of the Morecambe Bay tragedy.

In February 2004, 23 Chinese cocklers drowned.

Fylde Conservative MP Mark Menzies has called for cockling in the estuary to be banned unless greater controls are introduced.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the North Western Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority limited the number of cocklers in the estuary and all permit holders had to be fully trained in health and safety.

Mr Menzies is due to meet fisheries minister Richard Benyon to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is investigating whether gangmasters were involved in a cockling incident on Monday night.

The cockle bed at Foulnaze, near Lytham, attracts about 600 cocklers a day. Their hauls can fetch up to £1,200 a tonne at fish markets.

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