Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will be part of a major new project to try and find out the cause of the cockle deaths on the Burry Inlet near Llanelli in south Wales.
It will work with experts from Bangor University and research centres across the UK as part of a major Europe-wide investigation into unexplained cockle mortalities.
The 3.5 million Euro programme will look at cockle fisheries in the UK and other European countries including Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France where cockle deaths have been harming their industries.
The new research follows the 2012 Welsh Government-funded investigation into the cockle deaths.
Huwel Manley, Operations Manager for NRW, said:
“Our aim is to manage a sustainable cockle fishery in the Burry Inlet that provides a regular income to licence holders, while leaving enough for stocks to replenish and to feed migratory birds.
“This funding for a new investigation will aim to address many of the unanswered questions from the 2012 report.
“We’ll benefit from having full access to data collected independently by various institutions and academic establishments across Europe. And we’ll consider any new evidence, as well as evidence from our cockle surveys, to help us better manage the fishery in the future.”
NRW surveys the cockle beds twice a year to estimate stock levels to be harvested. The survey from October last year indicated levels similar to previous years.
The surveys also show more of the younger cockles die after spawning compared to older cockles. This is a natural phenomenon, but is resulting in fewer cockles living for more than a year.
This change of average age harms the fishing industry as smaller cockles have a lower market value than larger, older cockles.
Huwel Manley continued:
“We will use the survey result from October and the result of the spring survey to see if these trends continue.
“Once available we will be sharing these with the cockle licence holders in the Burry Inlet to get their view as to how best to harvest the fishery in a sustainable manner.”
The 3.5 million Euros for the programme has come from European Union INTERREG Atlantic Area funds.