South West Wales

Burry Inlet cockle death fears for Environment Agency

Cockle picking
Image caption The results of an investigation into cockle mortality are due in June 2011

The Environment Agency is monitoring the Burry Inlet in Carmarthenshire over fears of cockle deaths.

Scientists working on behalf of the agency have found a small quantity of cockles experiencing difficulties with re-burying themselves.

It is usually a sign associated with the start of mortality and the amount of cockles and their density are being assessed.

Thousands of tons of cockles have died in the Burry Inlet in recent years.

Last year, poor water quality and sewage was blamed for mass cockle deaths, but Carmarthenshire council said no evidence of poor water quality was found.

"We are monitoring the beds very closely," said an Environment Agency Wales spokesperson.

"This is a situation that we and the cockle gatherers are working to avoid.

"We need to do all that we can to prevent more cockle deaths and to re-establish a healthy and sustainable cockle fishery.

"In the past, it is mostly the younger cockles that have failed to survive.

"Whatever proves to be the cause of the mortalities, by supporting the survival of these older cockles, we hope they will breed and in turn produce more resilient offspring for the future."

The discovery came during an agency-led an investigation into cockle mortalities, which has been funded by the Welsh Government and a report is due in June.

Officers have been paying attention to protecting the larger cockles which are over one year old and have already survived last year's mortality.

The older cockles make up a very small proportion of the cockles on the beds and are likely to be more resilient to the parasites believed to be linked to the mortalities.

The information gathered will also be used by the Agency to help inform the management of the beds to protect the cockles, the cockle industry and the Burry Inlet special area of conservation.

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