FISHERMEN have been dealt a double blow after shellfish beds were closed in Morecambe Bay and the Ribble Estuary.

They were prevented from harvesting the shellfish bays and mussel beds along the Lune Estuary and Morecambe Bay because of sewage problems and now they have been denied an alternative option to fish for cockles in the Ribble Estuary because of safety fears.

A United Utilities pipe at Morecambe’s wastewater treatment works no longer operates because it was buried by sand, meaning an old pipe has to be used.

The pipe is used to release treated wastewater 1.5 miles out to sea and engineers believe the movement of the sandbanks in Morecambe Bay caused the deposit of sand.

The old system, usually used as overflow during bad weather, is now discharging untreated sewage about a mile into the sea at Morecambe Bay.

Meanwhile, cockle beds off the Lancashire and Wirral coast have closed after the fisheries and conservation authority passed an emergency by-law.

The emergency services have been called out more than 20 times since the Ribble Estuary bed opened on September 1.

Fishing regulators ordered the closure on Friday to avoid further emergencies.

In Morecambe Bay and the Lune Estuary, notices have been posted at access points to the sewage-affected mussel beds.

Anybody who has gathered shellfish from Morecambe Bay or the Lune Estuary since October 30 is advised not to consume them and to contact Environmental Health on 01524 582936 for advice.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The wider effects of this incident both in the short and medium term are unclear and Lancaster City Council is calling on United Utilities and the Environment Agency to do all they can to speedily resolve the problem, which we understand may continue for some weeks.

“It is also important that a full and thorough investigation takes place and that there are appropriate plans and procedures in place to ensure it does not occur again.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “As soon as we discovered the problem with the outfall pipe we alerted the Environment Agency and the local councils.

“Our priority is to remove the sand deposits from the end of the pipe as quickly and safely as we can and we are taking specialist advice on the best way to do this.”