Letter to ministers and MPs logs 157 incidents since October 2021

The North East Fishing Collective (NEFC) has written to ministers, local MPs and councillors asking for a meeting to discuss the ongoing deaths of marine life and the financial difficulties the inshore industry is facing.

NEFC includes with its letter a chronological list of 157 incidents of deaths of shellfish and other marine life, and wash- ups at sea and on beaches around the tidal zone spread of the Tees, and the dredge dumping sites three and six miles off the Tees.

The letter, sent to Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey, fisheries minister Mark Spencer and the Efra committee, says its list of incidents up to the present refutes the claim by Defra that the deaths in October 2021 were a ‘one-off ’. It questions whether information on subsequent deaths and wash- ups were passed to the panel of independent scientists.

Hartlepool skipper Stan Rennie, who signed the letter on behalf of the NEFC and is leading the campaign for a full investigation, says that the affected skippers are open to anyone contacting them to hear first-hand of their hardship.

“We all just want to work with the government and government agencies to get to a proven cause of the marine ecocide/die-off, and stop this from happening ever again, and to plan a way to restock the huge area affected and try and save what is left of the quickly diminishing fishing industry,” says the letter.

It asks for a meeting with Mark Spencer – who discussed his own views about the die-offs at the SAGB conference last week (see opposite) – and local MPs so they can hear ‘first- hand from individuals on their personal struggles with catches and their fears for the future of fishing in the die-off zone’. The collective argues that potters, prawn vessels and merchants need ‘urgent financial compensation’ for loss of access to local grounds, reduced landings and the destruction of the local ecosystem.

“Decommissioning boats, payments to restock the area, anything possible is urgently needed to save what’s left of the North East fleet,” it says.

“Please help to save the ecosystem and fishing industry before it’s too late.”

Local councils back industry

Three local councils, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Middlesborough, were due to hold a joint meeting last Friday (9 June) to decide their next moves on the issue.

North Yorkshire Council approved a motion last Thursday (8 June) setting out its position and next steps. It says it will work with and support other local and combined authorities in dealing with ‘the unprecedented incident’.

It will also support a request by the council leader to engage with the Dead Crustacean Collaborative Working Group managed by Redcar and Cleveland Council.

North Yorkshire Council’s motion calls on the Defra secretary to:

  • Support the local economy and community, help in securing financial compensation and assist in arranging the investment needed to rebuild marine life in the affected area
  • Create and fund a dedicated taskforce of local and national stakeholders and experts to monitor and investigate the situation
  • Reconvene a panel of independent experts once new evidence emerges
  • Convene a public inquiry with powers to compel testimony and the release of all forms of evidence.

Chronology of die-off: 157 incidents over 19 months

A chronological list of 157 incidents of shellfish and other marine life deaths and wash-ups in the region has been compiled by Sarah Rennie, who carries out secretarial work for the NEFC. It includes reports from NEFC members, North Eastern IFCA, fishermen and members of the public.

It begins with reports of dead crabs and lobsters in the Hartlepool area on 25/26 October, 2021, which coincided exactly with substantially increased maintenance dredging in the Tees and dumping of spoil by the dredger Orca. It then lists a wide range of deaths and wash-ups continuing throughout the region, up to 25 May, 2023.

The log includes a wide variety of reports, ranging from small-scale wash-ups of various forms of marine life to larger-scale deaths of crustaceans. It also includes information reported by fishermen in relation to catches, as well as concerns raised by merchants.

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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