COCKLE pickers are heading to Wirral following the Morecambe Bay tragedy, councillors fear.
Cocklers have been spotted working early in the morning off Leasowe shore.
Almost a dozen members of the public reported seeing gangs before sunrise.
Conservative councillor Ian Lewis said: "In just two days we had a spate of calls from people who saw cocklers working on the shore while it was still dark.
"They believed they were acting suspiciously so contacted us.
"Cockling is legal if it is for personal use but if gangs are doing it for commercial purposes there are strict guidelines. The time of day these people were spotted raised suspicions.
"Our fear is that since the Morecambe Bay tragedy cocklers are moving here because there is less attention.
"We would urge anyone who sees anything suspicious not to approach them but to take down their car registrations instead and contact police."
Twenty Chinese cockle pickers, believed to have been living in Liverpool, died last month at Morecambe Bay after they were swept away by the fast rising tide.
They were working for illegal gangmasters who were paying them just £1 for each bag they collected before selling them on for £12.
Labour councillor Dave Hawkins said: "We are very concerned about this. If gangs are moving down here from Morecambe Bay we need to police the area very carefully."
Wirral has always been a mainstay for the cockle industry with the most popular areas being Thurstaston and West Kirby. But the cockle beds are often kept closed by the Environment Agency, which pushes cocklers to other areas.
A backbench Bill to force gangmasters to apply for licences and give their workers employment rights and the protection of health and safety legislation has been tabled in the Commons.
The Gangmaster Licensing Bill would hand responsibility for regulating the estimated 3,000 gangmasters to Department of the Environment inspectors.
But it has little chance of becoming law unless the government throws its weight behind it and grants it precious parliamentary time.
Liverpool Port Health Authority has been informed about the sightings but said it is powerless. A spokesman said: "It's something we're all concerned about morally as individuals, but as an organisation we can not do anything to stop people."