A VIDEO showing North East fishermen struggling to catch lobsters in the North Sea demostrates the scale of the problem facing the industry.

From dead crabs, lobsters and shellfish to malnourished seal pups and porpoises, the issue of sea life washing up on the shores has been ongoing since October and is an every day concern for locals.

Read more: Mysterious killer continues to wipe out North East sea life

The Northern Echo:

Fishermen in the once thriving fishing town are now struggling to catch anything – and they argue their concerns haven’t been heard. On a visit to Hartlepool’s Fish Quay, many of the town’s proud fishermen are despondent about the future of fishing.

And a video they provided to The Northern Echo shows the seriousness of the crisis they are facing, with a number of empty lobster pots being pulled from the North Sea.

Up to 160 lobster and crab pots are lowered into the sea on some trips but have returned to shore empty on several occasions. A return log sheet showed 700kg of crab was collected in one visit in October. In May, it had decreased to 16kg.

Read more: North Sea crisis: It's time for someone to take responsibility

The Northern Echo:

The rapid decrease in sea life has coincided with “apocalyptic” piles of dead crustaceans washing up along the coastline and a mystery dog illness, which was first reported in October last year.

Its lead to a growing discontent among the fishing industry, with many believing that chemicals disturbed by dredging on the Tees riverbed was responsible for the deaths.

A suggestion from DEFRA that a “naturally occurring harmful algal bloom” was the cause of the deaths between October-December has been disputed.

“There is no life whatsoever left in the areas where we fish,” Paul Widdowfield told The Northern Echo. “In the past, we have seen life in every pot, and there should be six or seven lobsters in, but they’re empty.”

Read more: No plans for new investigation into North East sea life deaths

The Hartlepool fishermen have called for an independent body to investigate the crustacean deaths and for officials and politicians to visits the Quay to hear of their troubles. The coast of Hartlepool is perfect, they say, because of the array of fish available.

On Friday, Defra confirmed there are no plans to reopen their investigation into the deaths of hundreds of crustaceans along the North East coast despite continued concern over how they died.

The Northern Echo:

“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.

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:

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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