A North East MP has called on the government to compensate fishermen affected by the mass crustacea deaths along the region’s coast and to reopen the investigation into the cause.

A study into the shellfish that started washing up dead last October concluded that the cause was a harmful, naturally occurring algal bloom.

However, the fishing community in affected areas including Whitby, Saltburn, Hartlepool and Redcar maintain that dredging of the River Tees has unleased toxic chemicals into the North Sea.

Read more: Disposable barbecue causes grassland fire that took five hours to put out

They commissioned their own report that highlighted the toxic chemical Pyridine as likely being responsible for the crustacea deaths.

And in a debate at Westminster Hall today (June 28) Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham questioned Defra Minister Victoria Prentis as to why this hasn’t been investigated further.

Mr Cunningham said there was ‘too much uninvestigated evidence being peddled about’ into the cause of the deaths and said that government 'can't stick its head in the sand' and hope the problem goes away.

The Northern Echo: Dead seals have been found on the Teesside coastDead seals have been found on the Teesside coast

He highlighted the Fishing Collective’s report, written by experienced consultant Tim Deere-Jones, which showed that levels of toxic Pyridine in North East crabs were 70 times higher than from sample crabs in Penzance.

Mr Cunningham said: “In the words of Mr Deere-Jones himself, how Defra has seen that and not felt it requires further investigation I don’t know.”

Mr Cunningham said the region’s coast life was being ‘decimated’ describing how local seal rescuer Sally Bunce said it was a ‘dead zone’, with seal pups starving to death and fishermen pulling up lobster pots full of black silt.

He said: “This year, 14 porpoises have washed up dead in a period of ten weeks which is a huge increase on the numbers normally seen.

“I understand the department did not provide funding to allow toxicology tests to be carried out on those porpoises and I’d be grateful for the minister to explain, given the circumstances we have there, why it was thought that such a report wouldn’t be needed?”

The Northern Echo: Dead crabs brought to shore for testingDead crabs brought to shore for testing

Mr Cunningham asked Ms Prentis to commit to an investigation looking at the whole range of marine life mortalities and called for compensation for affected fisherman.

Redcar MP Jacob Young also took part in the debate but said he accepted the findings of the Defra co-ordinated investigation.

He said: “It is a misnomer to get lost in conversations about dredging because we know that contaminants exist in the riverbed, that’s why sampling is undertaken before any dredging takes place.”

Mr Young said any dredging waste that doesn’t meet requirements is handled onshore and it was important to accept the findings of the multiple investigating authorities.

He said: “I you think that all of these organisations would somehow conspire together to hide the real reason for the cause of these crustacea deaths, then I think you must be having a laugh.

The Northern Echo: Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton NorthAlex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North

“Why would all these leading scientists come together in to try and cover this up in some way?

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

Mr Young agreed it is vital fishing community gets extra support and asked the minister what further help would be made available to ensure that the crustacea deaths ‘don’t also lead to the death of the 700-year-old fishing industry in Redcar’.

Ms Prentis reiterated how ‘extensive’ testing and analysis ruled out poisoning as the cause of the initial washup and although the algal bloom was concluded as the most likely cause, ongoing testing was being carried out with a further report due to be published in March 2023.

Read more: Heritage railway announces the return of this popular event

She said it was important to look at the matter with an open mind and allow scientists ‘to work together to try and establish why this has occurred’.

Ms Prentis said it was not the government’s normal practice to pay compensation when natural events occur – such as the algal bloom - so the government is ‘not currently considering’ compensation for the fishermen.

Instead, she said she would work with MPs to see whether suitable bids could be made to the £100million UK Sea Food Fund that would help the local fishing community.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054