SEVEN men have gone on trial accused of illegally dredging for cockles in the Burry Inlet.
The group all deny they were dredging for cockles in an area near Weobley Castle — where all fisherman must have a licence.
Edward Francis, 63, of Station Road, Llanmorlais, Jack George, 22, of Pencaerfenni Lane, Crofty, Barry Johnston, 32, and Kerry Johnson, 55, both of Culver Road, Loughor, Jack Lewis, 21, of Pencaerfenni Park, Crofty, Adrian Stapleton Jones, 43, of Coed y Clun, Trimsaran, Kidwelly, and Thomas Williams, 42, of Pencaerfenni Park, Crofty all deny they fished in Burry Inlet, an area regulated by the Burry Inlet Cockle Fishery Order 1965, without the authority of a licence.
Prosecutor John Tarrant told Swansea Magistrates' Court illegal cockling had become a problem in the area and the Environment Agency had been watching cocklers at the site to check only licensed fishermen were operating inside the restricted area.
The group all deny they were fishing for cockles in the restricted area and said they were washing their cockles which had been collected earlier from unrestricted water off Whiteford Sands.
Officers from the Environment Agency, Peter Thurnell, Huw Griffiths and Huw Evans, all told the court they had seen the group collecting cockles at around 2.30pm on May 8 and denied they were cleaning them.
Magistrates were told that to collect them, the cockles had to be raked into a mound before the sand and mud was shaken off through a riddle. The defendants said they were using seawater to clean sand off them.
"The prosecution will say that the act of taking cockles is a separate and distinct action from that of washing," said Mr Tarrant.
One defendant, Barry Johnson, told the court he knew the area well as he had been waiting for a licence to fish in the outlet for 17 years. He repeatedly said he had collected the cockles from an unrestricted area.
He said the Environment Agency officers "must be seeing things".
The trial continues.