Cllr Cadogan Enright has highlighted concerns of local environmentalists at the almost complete disappearance of Periwinkles on the coast from Minerstown to Ballyhornan and up to Killyleagh because of over-harvesting.
“These creatures form an important part of the food chain for wildlife in coastal areas and the periwinkles are not only being harvested, but the stones under which they grow are being left overturned which results in the developing periwinkles to dry out and die. This interrupts the natural life-cycle of these sea creatures and diminishes the chances of the population recovering. Their disappearance is alleged to be driven by gang masters paying pitiful wages to foreign migrants who are stripping the periwinkles of all ages indiscriminately from the coast” Cllr Enright said.
Down Cllr Enright has contacted the Fisheries Policy Officer at the Department of Agriculture to clarify the position on licensing protection and enforcement who is looking into how periwinkle collection can be regulated. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority is also being contacted to see if a licensed “gang ” is operating in county Down. This authority was established after the disaster in Morecambe Bay where a large number of shellfish collectors died.
Cllr Enright said “I think it is important for the harvesting of periwinkles to be regulated in the same manner as at Strangford Lough were under five crab or lobster pots is considered personal use and over this limit is commercial and requires a license.”
“We cannot allow people to take unsustainable quantities of shellfish from the fragile ecosystem along the coast and I will be seeking for proper enforcement and regulations on this issue.”
“I raised this issue at the Strangford Lough Management Advisory Committee and we have agreed to set up a sub-committee. This committee will invite the Department of Agriculture Fisheries policy officers and the Environment and Heritage Service and other relevant bodies to ascertain if a management policy can be put in place to preserve this resource long-term for local people”.
Cllr Enright has called on residents on the Lecale Coast and Strangford Lough to report any commercial scale activities on the beach to the Chief Fisheries Officer of the Department of Agriculture at this number: 028 9052 4038.