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Dee Estuary

Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2003

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What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about the Dee estuary. [109792]

My right hon. Friend has regular meetings with the First Minister to discuss a variety of issues.

The Dee estuary is a place where significant industrial activity sits alongside extremely important environmental sites, and the cockle fishing industry is a significant commercial activity, with equally significant ecological implications. Will my hon. Friend join me in urging that for the next cockle fishing season we have a more strictly controlled issue of licences, and that in the longer term we have a regulatory order that balances the interests of all sides of the argument?

I support my hon. Friend in encouraging sustainable development of this activity, but control and management of the Dee cockle fishery is the responsibility of the Environment Agency, which has proposed putting in place a regulatory order to manage the cockle beds, including licensing a much smaller number of gatherers. That is now being considered by Ministers at DEFRA and at the Assembly, and at the appropriate time they will submit a formal application.