Maryport fishermen are facing ruin after being blocked from mussel beds in Silloth.

John and Tom Watson say they have had no income since October while Tony Baxter says his last pay was in September.

The men are they will have no choice but to walk away from their livelihoods since they have been barred from the mussel beds they have fished for years without any trouble.

The men, who are three of only about six shellfish fishermen left in the area, said the industry will die out here without urgent action from the North West IFCA, the inshore fisheries authority.

John Watson said: "We are normally shrimpers. Due to an abundance of shrimps off Holland and Germany, the price has been pushed down so far that it is not economic to fish them this year."

He said on occasions when that has happened in the past, and while the Cumbria coast had its own fishing authority, the mussels provided the income that kept the industry alive.

When it was obvious there would be no shrimps this year the men applied, as usual, to dredge the mussel beds but were told that a scientific survey would have to be carried out first.

"They have just bought a new survey boat with all the bells and whistles on it but they didn't have anyone to operate the gear so that caused delays," Tom Watson said.

The IFCA, in a response this week, said it gave the fishermen dispensation to carry out their own small scientific survey "but they declined."

Tom Watson denied that: "We carried out a dredge for them but did not realise we had to keep doing it. Our boat was not on the water for a couple of months and the dispensation was taken away. Also, the IFCA wants digital information and we don't have that equipment."

As the discussions continue the fishermen are running out of time.

Tony Baxter said: "Star fish eat the mussels and that is already happening. Then we will come into spatting season and it will be too late. It is possibly too late already but if something doesn't happen immediately we will all be out of job."!

The IFCA, in a statement, said: "The mussels in the Solway lie in a European Marine Site. As regulator of fishing in the north west, NWIFCA has been directed by Defra to assess all fishing activity in relation to the risk it poses to protected habitats and features. Every type of fishing activity has to undergo a Habitats Regulations Assessment prior to being authorised and these are all published online on our website.

"The Solway mussels is subtidal and in order to carry out a full assessment NWIFCA requires data on the nature of the subtidal habitats and the extent of the mussel. NWIFCA is currently in the process of commissioning its subtidal survey equipment to be used from its new survey and patrol vessel the North Western Protector."

"But in the meantime," John Watson said," we have to try and pay our mortgages, buy our food and look after our kids with no income at all."