WIRRAL fishermen working on the River Dee say last minute changes to fishing quotas could see the cockle population wiped out within months.
They are furious at the decision by the Environment Agency to only impose a yearly quota and ask fishermen to measure how much they fish on a daily basis.
A Wirral-based fisherman – one of just 50 to be awarded licences to work on the Dee – said at least 40 had voted for daily quotas.
He said allowing fishermen to declare their own catches would allow unscrupulous operators to fish large amounts and finish off the beds which have been frequently closed over recent years to avoid over-fishing.
He said: “If there is no bailiff there, then they just won’t declare it, come back the next day and carry on fishing.”
He said votes among the licence holders had been overwhelmingly in favour of a daily quota with only those from outside the area voting against it.
The fisherman said a daily quota would effectively be self enforcing because other fishermen would easily see if someone brought in more than what is allowed on a single day.
But the Environment Agency has now told them that despite this they would instead just be given a Total Allowable Catch for the year, to be caught as and when they want during the season.
A spokesman said: “The Agency did consider introducing a daily quota and some fishermen supported this as a way of preventing fishermen taking large quantities of cockles in a day.
“However, we decided that the annual quota, was a much more flexible and easier way to manage the harvest which worked well last year.’’