'Cockle wars' drawing to an end, navy chief says

'Cockle wars' drawing to an end, navy chief says

SURAT THANI: Local figures wielding influence are being neutralised and a disruptive dispute between cockle farmers and local small-boat fishermen is drawing to an end, navy chief Adm Luechai Ruddit said yesterday.

Adm Luechai said the conflict off the coast of Bandon Bay in this southern province had eased after cockle farmers began dismantling the roofed platforms they had built to protect their shellfish breeding areas against raids by local fishermen.

The various agencies involved in easing this conflict have been integrating their efforts and enforcing laws to tackle the problem, which has led to the situation improving significantly. There would be no further disputes, Adm Luechai predicted.

The navy chief said local officials were to blame for allowing local figures to wield influence over the sea, however, their control is now fading. The intervention of agencies, who had joined hands under the Sornchon task force, has created a balance of power and this will naturally neutralise the influential figures.

Adm Luechai was commenting after inspecting the operations of the task force tackling the encroachment in Bandon Bay, in Muang district, on Wednesday.

Previously, cockle farmers had been illegally occupying large areas of the sea, which is under the public domain.

Influential figures were reported to have laid claim to parts of the sea and then leased or sold plots to people eager to invest in the profitable shellfish trade.

Investors had occupied areas off Phunphin, Muang, Kanchanadit, Don Sak, Chaiya and Thachang districts, and developed them as private farms to breed the profitable bivalve, also known as the blood clam. However, coastal fishermen had argued the areas were public and that they had the right to harvest the shellfish.

This had led to several violent clashes.

It has been estimated that cockle farmers occupied 300,000 rai off the coast of the six districts. They built roofed platforms in the sea and stood guard over their farms.

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