The Government has said that it won't commit to any more research into the cause of unexplained deaths of sea life off the coast of Tees coastline in events which began in October 2021.

In a letter to Sir Robert Goodwill MP, chair of the House of Commons environment select committee, Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey MP wrote that in relation to the mortality events off the coast "no further analysis will be undertaken by the government".

Read more: MPs call for study into whether novel pathogen caused mass crab deaths

An independent panel was assembled late last year by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to examine evidence that had been submitted to the select committee in relation to unexplained mass sea life deaths along the North Sea coast. This related to the the area roughly from Hartlepool to Whitby in separate events.

It has taken three weeks for Defra to publish its response to the panel's findings.

The panel's report was published on January 20 and assessed that the likelihood of pyridine as the cause of the deaths was unlikely. It also ruled out the algal bloom theory that the government put forward in the immediate wake of the discovery of crabs and lobsters washing up on Yorkshire coast beaches, and dredging in the River Tees.

Read more: 'What about us?': Forgotten fishermen at centre of crab-deaths struggling to survive

Campaigners have since argued for the need to take deeper samples of sediment in order to rule out pyridine completely.

The Northern Echo: Fishermen Paul Graves and Paul Widdowfield from Hartlepool.Fishermen Paul Graves and Paul Widdowfield from Hartlepool. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

A new disease was put forward in the panel's report as the most likely cause of the deaths, however it was described as being "as likely as not" as being the cause of the mortalities with a probability of between 33% and 66% likelihood.

In his previous letter to the Secretary of State, Sir Roger insisted that a study into a potential new disease should be carried out “as a matter of urgency”.

Ms Coffey's response has also ruled out any financial support for fishers whose livelihoods have been affected by the practically overnight depletion of their stocks.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen called for a package of financial support for fishers to be put in place after the publication of the panel's report.


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According to Defra's assessments "a significant reduction in landings in October and November 2021 were not observed."