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Mussel beds plea to inquiry

PUBLISHED: 19:06 30 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:07 22 October 2010

CHRIS BISHOP

Mussel farming is vital for the future of the Wash, a public inquiry into whether fishermen should be able to scare ducks away from shellfish stocks has heard.

Mussel farming is vital for the future of the Wash, a public inquiry into whether fishermen should be able to scare ducks away from shellfish stocks has heard.

English Nature has refused to allow bird scarers to be placed in the estuary to drive eider ducks away from mussel beds.

It fears the devices would also disturb other species of bird, such as the internationally-important oyster catcher.

But fishermen have told a public inquiry sitting in Boston, Lincolnshire, that mussel farming will become unviable if they are not allowed to protect their stocks.

On its final day, the inquiry heard evidence from Matthew Mander, chief fishery officer with the Eastern Sea Fisheries committee.

In a summary statement, Mr Mander said eider ducks had increased “significantly” in recent years. He said: “English Nature's over- protection of a low priority species (eider) will have wide and significant consequences.

“The committee believes that this case demonstrates the danger of managing for a single species.”

Mr Mander said the fisheries committee had warned last year that mussel farming could be abandoned.

“This outcome would have serious negative implications for the fishing communities and the ecological integrity of the Wash,” he said.

Fishermen warn up to 100 jobs could be lost if their appeal against English nature's refusal to license bird scaring does not succeed.

In his summing up, Matthew Boyer, for English Nature, named the increasing eider population on the increase in mussel cultivation.

“English Nature is not attempting to stop fishing, it believes it is possible for sustainable fishing to exist alongside that huge population of birds,” he added.

Peter Scott, summing up for the fishermen, said the evidence submitted by English Nature and the RSPB had been “naïve”.

Mr Scott said “Mussel lays are private, they contain private property and English Nature is refusing to allow people to protect their property.”

Government inspector Graham Cundale said he expected to send his report to the secretary of state at the beginning of August. The government's decision is expected later this year.


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