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For the first time in two decades the River Dee cockle fishery has been open three years running, and this year its fishermen are getting an early harvest thanks to large numbers of cockles in the beds.

The recovery of the cockle beds in the once industrially-polluted Dee estuary began in the early 80s when heavy industry began to move away from the area.

Fishermen, who previously had to go miles off the Flintshire coast, began to fish once again in the estuary, and cockles started to return to the beds.

Tighter environmental controls by the on the remaining industry around the estuary, a clean up of contamination left by the former steel works, as well as investment into improved sewage treatment, led to a dramatic improvement in water quality.

Environment Agency Wales spokesman, David Edwell said: “It is hoped that harvesting some cockles in overcrowded areas will allow those left behind more room to grow and mature, ready for the official start of the season in July.

“It also reduces the risk of overcrowded cockles dying in a heat wave, for the 50 licensed fishermen that fish the Dee, it’s a welcome financial boost – with small cockles fetching around £200 a tonne.”

The cockle season usually lasts from July to December, but the Environment Agency says cockles are ‘so abundant’ it’s allowing fishermen six days this month (May) to take an early crop.

Luke Walsh

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