Animal rights organisation Ocean Rebellion has echoed longstanding calls from fishermen in North East England for action to properly investigate the die-off of crustaceans that have been reported there since early October, reports Andy Read.

Calling Defra minister George Eustice a ‘seal killer’, Ocean Rebellion staged a dumping followed by a ‘toxic waste clear-up’ on the steps of Defra’s London offices last week.

The die-offs, originally suggested by Defra to be the result of an unseasonal algal bloom, have had devastating impacts on fishermen from the Tees southwards (Fishing News, 24 March, ‘Pollution likely cause of NE shellfish die-offs’).

The Fishermen’s Mission, supported by The Seafarer’s Charity, has stepped in to provide emergency supportto fishers who have lost their livelihoods, but no long-term solution appears to be in sight, and fears are mounting that the deaths of several year- classes of crab and lobster will mean it is years before the fisheries can recover.

Incensed by the lack of action by local authorities, and a lack of support from local MPs, Whitby Fishermen’s Association has been forced to commission and pay for its own research.

This pointed to spoils dumping, and the chemical pyridine, as a more likely cause of the die-offs than an algal bloom.

Placing clear blame for the die-off on spoils dredging by the dredger OKD Orca, which started work in the Tees a few days before the die-offs were reported, an Ocean Rebellion spokesperson said: “The ‘freeport’ was eagerly adopted by politicians, part of the Teesworks team, and talk of ‘Teesport’ began with £26bn pledged in investor funding. What was unclear was how damaging ‘freeports’ would be to marine life. But even before the guidance was announced, work was already underway in the North East.

“There are plans for more dredging soon, and on a larger scale. This time 2m tonnes will be dredged and dumped – four times more than last time. The scale of this dredging is so large it is hard to conceive – the devastation equally so.

“Ocean Rebellion demands that Defra reopens its environmental case in the North East and suspends all dredging. The new report must be undertaken by an independent organisation in consultation with local stakeholders like the RSPB, local seal sanctuaries and fishers. Defra must act on the findings of this report.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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