THERE are no plans to reopen an investigation into the deaths of hundreds of crustaceans along the North East coast despite continued concern over how they died.

Huge piles of dead crabs, lobsters, fish, and seals have washed up on the Teesside shores since October, with mixed opinions among locals and officials over the cause of the issue.

Fishermen have warned their livelihoods are at risk after experiencing a dramatic drop in alive and healthy sea life. 

DEFRA, a government department, concluded that a naturally occurring harmful algal bloom was the most likely cause of the incident after an investigation between October-December 2021. It ruled out other causes such as chemical pollution, sewage, animal disease, and dredging.

However, a contradictory review of the evidence published by independent consultant, Tim Deere-Jones, claims it was more likely to be the chemical Pyridine which was found by the Environment Agency in high levels within dead sea-life.

Read more: Fishermen's fury as mysterious killer continues to wipe out North East sea life

The Northern Echo: Locals have pointed to dredging on the Tees riverbed as a cause of the deathsLocals have pointed to dredging on the Tees riverbed as a cause of the deaths

Local analysts and fishermen believe the prevalence of the chemical is a direct consequence of dredging on the Tees riverbed. And after crustaceans once again washed up on the coastline last week, the governmental bodies have been pressed for answers.

“We are monitoring recent small scale wash ups at South Gare and the Tees area, and remain in close contact with both the local fishing industry and other partner agencies,” a DEFRA spokeswoman said of the latest reports.
The Northern Echo: Dead crabs and seals have been found on the Teesside coastlineDead crabs and seals have been found on the Teesside coastline

Yet the chair of the Whitby Fishermen’s Association, James Cole, has accused the authorities of a ‘cover-up’, and believes that admitting dredging up toxic chemicals as the cause would harm the Government’s green energy agenda.

Locals have pointed the finger at Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen over the issue, with many believing work for the new Freeport development could be responsible for the chemicals. But speaking to the Echo, he confirmed the new £100m South Bank quay project has not involved any dredging yet and wouldn’t for “quite some time”.

PD Ports is the statutory harbour authority on the River Tees - with jurisdiction over 11 miles from the Tees Estuary to the Tees Barrage.

Read more: North East marine life crisis - who is responsible?

Dredging has taken place is by “The Orca” – a 79-metre dredger weighing more than 3,000 tonnes, on behalf of PD Ports at the mouth of the river.

Mr Houchen has met with local scientists and activists to discuss the issue and is due to meet with officials from DEFRA and the Environment Agency once the former completes its report on the issue.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Mr Houchen said: “This issue of dead crustaceans is having a huge impact on the livelihoods of people working in the local fishing industry. It is utterly shocking, it has been a problem for months and we must get to the bottom of it once and for all.

“People rightly want answers, and I will continue to do all I can to get them.”

PD Ports said it has been “disturbed” by the deaths and supports the narrative that rules out dredging as a cause.

“We remain wholly committed to the conservation of the River Tees,” it added.

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