POLITICIANS have called on the government to step up its efforts in supporting the region as devastating numbers of dead crustaceans continue to affect the North East fishing industry.

Hundreds of dead and dying crabs and lobsters were washed ashore in unusually high numbers along parts of the north-east coast of England between October and December 2021, with the mass devastation continuing this year.

A range of potential causes including licensed dredging activity, chemical contamination, presence of algal blooms and aquatic animal disease were investigated – but no single, consistent causative factor was identified.

However, a harmful algal bloom present in the area was identified as of significance and the most likely cause.

Read more: DEFRA report gives update on sea life deaths in North East

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Environment Agency and Maritime Management Organisation are among four agencies who commissioned new research and analysis into the deaths.

Yet activists and local fishermen continue to dispute the official explanation behind the mortality.

The Northern Echo: Dead crabs on Redcar beach. Picture: The Northern EchoDead crabs on Redcar beach. Picture: The Northern Echo

This is what Teesside and North Yorkshire MPs’ are doing about the ongoing issue:

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North


Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, says dead crustaceans continue to be reported in catches and found on the shores of Teesside.

“The fishing industry is already under incredible strain and the thousands of dead crustaceans washing up on Teesside beaches only adds further stress,” he said.

“That dead crustaceans are still being caught and found on our beaches not only shows quite clearly that this issue isn’t over, but also casts serious doubt on the “algal bloom” theory accepted by the DEFRA.

“Testing dead crabs and visits from Ministers are all fine and well but we need to see real action from the Government to get to the bottom of this.”

Mr Cunningham will now be seeking a debate in the House of Commons to demand a full and proper investigation.

The Northern Echo: Stockton North MP Alex CunninghamStockton North MP Alex Cunningham

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor


Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has vowed to work with local fishermen and activists as long as the crisis continues. He has written to the DEFRA’s Secretary of State, George Eustice, calling for a long-term multiagency monitoring programme so that any adverse events detrimental to marine life can be quickly detected.

“As you may be aware, between October and December 2021, dead and dying crabs and lobsters were washed up in large numbers along the north east coast,” he wrote.

“This mass die-off of crustaceans has caused a significant impact to the lives and livelihoods of our local fishing communities with fishermen still reporting significantly reduced catch numbers.

“The Environment Agency led the initial emergency response, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launching an investigation in December 2021 working with partners including Cefas, NEIFCA, MMO, FSA and UKSHA which concluded in March 2022.

“This investigation considered a range of potential causes including licensed dredging activity, chemical contamination, offshore windfarm activity and presence of algal blooms and aquatic animal disease. Initial Government findings pointed to algal blooms as the cause.

“On Tuesday, 31st May the Department published its final report which reconfirmed that dredging and chemical pollution – including pyridine – were not likely to be the cause and that a harmful algal bloom was identified as of significance.

“The impact of this event on our coastal communities cannot be understated, therefore I would urge the Department to implement a long-term multiagency monitoring programme so that any adverse events detrimental to marine life can be quickly detected, can I ask you to commit to this as soon as possible?”

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen Ben Houchen

Read more: Anger over DEFRA report into North East sea life deaths

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar


The Redcar MP pleaded with the Prime Minister’s to support the local fishing industry in Parliament earlier this month.

Mr Young said: “The Prime Minister knows from his visits to Redcar and Cleveland that we enjoy miles of beautiful, uninterrupted coastline. However, since October last year, we have seen thousands of dead and dying crustaceans being washed ashore.

“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs conducted an investigation into that, leading to the theory that algal bloom is the primary cause of these deaths. However, the report does nothing to support the fishermen left devastated by this freak event through no fault of their own.

“Will the Prime Minister look at how he can support this vital industry to get them back on its feet?”

In response, Boris Johnson said the government is working with the local industry to help it recover from the issue.

The Prime Minister responded: “My hon. Friend and I were walking together on the seafront in Redcar—eating a lemon top, actually—when somebody raised that very point with us.

“I can tell him that we have ruled out chemical pollution, but we are making another £100 million of investment, including in communities such as his, and working with the fishing industry to help it to recover from this problem.”

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland


The MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has written to Victoria Prentis, DEFRA minister, regarding the current issues with marine life health and water quality off the East Cleveland and North Yorkshire coast.

The MP is said to have requested further information as a matter of urgency.

The Northern Echo: Simon Clarke MPSimon Clarke MP

Robert Goodwill, Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby


Robert Goodwil recognises fishermen’s frustrations but, ultimately, is relying on the expertise of DEFRA and Environment Agency scientists.

The Conservative MP says he believes, as the report states, that the most likely cause of the mass deaths is from a large algal bloom.

He told The Northern Echo: “I can understand the fishermen’s frustration, but if it’s a natural occurrence then unfortunately there’s no way fishermen can get any recompense.

“I am in contact with [fisheries minister] Victoria Prentis and all the messages I get from fishermen I have passed onto her but ultimately, I have to rely on the best marine biologists and environmentalists.

“It’s very frustrating for the fishermen concerned because it’s hitting them hard in the pocket and it threatens the long-term future of one of the most successful fisheries in the country. It’s threatening lives up and down the country.

“It’s a very important industry and the bedrock of towns like Scarborough and Whitby.”

The Northern Echo: Robert Goodwill MPRobert Goodwill MP

Read more: Fishermen's fury as mysterious killer wipes out North East sea life

Jill Mortimer, Conservative MP for Hartlepool


The Hartlepool MP said she recently held a meeting with the Environment Minister Victoria Prentis MP to discuss the crustacean deaths and possible causes. Also present at the meeting was Stan Rennie from the fishing community, as well as representatives from the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA) and the Marine Authority Organisation (MAO).

She said: “We are all determined to get to the bottom of what is causing these deaths. I will do all I can to protect the livelihoods of our fishermen going forward, and our beautiful coastline.

“I will continue to keep you and our fishing community updated.”

The Northern Echo: Jill Mortimer MP with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in HartlepoolJill Mortimer MP with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Hartlepool

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