POLICE have launched an investigation after 10 tons of potentially-dangerous cockles were poached from a seabed in Wirral.
On Sunday, August 15, it was reported to police that around 50 people had arrived on Leasowe at around 9pm, in what is believed to have been 10 4x4 vehicles with trailers and began picking cockles from the seabed.
The incident is being investigated in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and the Environment Agency.
Police Wildlife Officer Rachael Krueger said: "We are concerned that a substantial quantity of cockles that have not been declared fit for consumption was poached from the Leasowe shoreline area on Sunday night.
"There are not only real safety concerns with people picking cockles due to the tides and the darkness but picking cockles commercially or more than 5kg-worth without holding a valid licence is a criminal offence.
"It is also a criminal offence to pick cockles at night. There are a raft of laws surrounding cockle picking which people should be aware of.
"Poaching can carry a custodial sentence and a hefty fine running into thousands of pounds.
"We are appealing for anyone with any information to contact us so we can jointly take action against these offenders to protect our cockles and ensure that those reaching the marketplace are ones that are safe to eat."
Anyone with any information is asked to call Merseyside Police Wildlife Officer on 0151 777 5441, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
A spokesman for The Food Standards Agency said: "Taking and selling cockles from an unclassified area for human consumption is a criminal offence.
"Cockles collected from unclassified shellfish beds can pose a serious risk to human health.
"The area is part of the inner Liverpool Bay which has had water quality and pollution issues over many decades.
"Although water quality has been improved in recent years it must be assumed that these cockles are unfit for human consumption.
"Any attempt to sell or process cockles which may have come from Leasowe in July and August 2010 should be reported to the Food Standards Agency and vigilance is essential to ensure all shellfish movement documents relating to cockles are in order."
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