Official Letter sent to The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee – Hearing into the Deaths of Large Numbers of Crustaceans off the Yorkshire Coast Since October 2021

The following letter has been submitted to The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee from Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council for the hearing into the Deaths of Large Numbers of Crustaceans, being held on the 25th October 2022

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee – Hearing into the Deaths of Large Numbers of Crustaceans off the Yorkshire Coast Since October

2021.

I write on behalf of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (‘the Council’) and would ask that the following information is taken into consideration as part of the above hearing.

The matters forming the subject of this hearing have been the cause of very significant concern to both residents and Elected Members of the Council since the initial deaths took place. This concern ultimately led to a motion being considered and approved at a meeting of the Full Council as follows:

RESOLVED that on the successful motion of Councillor C Quartermain and duly seconded by Councillor Thomson that:

“Redcar and Cleveland Council believes that much more needs to be done to investigate the reasons for the mass death of sea creatures found on our coast in the latter part of 2021 and more recently.

Redcar and Cleveland Council also believes much more support should be given to our local fishing industry which has been adversely affected by the consequent radical reduction in fishing stock.

Since October last year dead crustaceans have been found on our beaches along with, the possibly associated, deaths of seal pups and porpoises. The report of the Government Joint agency investigation into Teesside and Yorkshire Coast Crab and Lobster mortalities was published in May 2022 and concluded that as healthy crabs and lobsters were now being found the investigation was closed.

Redcar and Cleveland Council believes:

1. The decision to close the investigation was premature and demands that the Government re-open it as a matter of urgency to consider why the crustacean deaths

2. The Tees Valley local authorities should work together in expressing concern to central government and commission a new independent report in the light of the inconclusive evidence. In addition, the ongoing situation should be monitored by a special Scrutiny Committee from each local authority.

3. That the Government proposal to give support to the local fishing industry via the existing Seafood Fund is inadequate and calls on them to provide proper compensation for the lost income and livelihoods caused by this crisis.

4. That the possibility of creating a coastal hatchery to replenish crustacean stocks should be investigated.

In line with this motion, the Council has written to the Government making the requests identified under paragraphs 1 and 3 above but, regrettably, has yet to receive any sort of acknowledgment or reply. A copy of the Council’s letter is attached for your attention.

It is understood by the Council that the hearing on 25th October 2022 will consider both the cause and impact of the deaths and that information from interested parties is welcomed on both aspects of these matters.

Although the Council clearly cannot comment specifically on the cause of the deaths and has not had the opportunity to collate detailed information on their impact, it would make the following general comments, based on information received via residents and other sources in the course of its normal business.

1.The current conclusion that the deaths are the result of an algal bloom is somewhat less than definitive and has not been accepted by some of the scientific community and those involved in the fishing industry – the latter querying how something which is a relatively localised phenomena occurring at near surface level can impact on crustaceans which inhabit the sea at a much greater depth.

2.It seems unclear whether all potential sources of pollution and/or other causes of death have been conclusively explored. For example, earlier this year, the Council received information from an anonymous source, who indicated that, some years ago, they had been employed by a chemical company to deal, in secret, with toxic chemicals at a specified location in the River Tees. The source was concerned that these chemicals could be a potential cause of crustacean deaths if disturbed and this information was forwarded to DEFRA. The Council clearly cannot say whether the source is credible or the information of any potential relevance but is not aware that any consideration or investigation of this issue has taken place.

3.The impact of the deaths has been significant, both in terms of local residents, visitors to the Council’s beaches and, of course, the local fishing industry. In terms of the latter, the Council understands that catches of crabs have been decimated and that catches of lobsters have been halved along a large stretch of the coast.

4.Fishing boats now have to travel much further afield resulting in additional time and cost. It is known that some within the industry have given up, whilst others struggle on, in what are already difficult times. It seems that efforts are underway to ensure that the lobster population is restocked but there is no such effort in terms of crabs.

5.The deaths have had a notable impact on those visiting the beaches in the Borough. Residents and visitors have been clearly distressed by huge numbers of dead crustaceans quite literally piled on the sand. There is a sense of frustration and upset about the apparent lack of ability for any relevant body to authoritatively explain the reason for this situation.

6.It is not known how these issues might have impacted negatively on tourism – something upon which the Council significantly relies – given the ongoing press coverage, negative connotations about potential pollution and perpetuation of false perceptions about the industrial nature of the area.

In summary, the Council feels that the impact of these deaths has been substantially underestimated and considers it unacceptable that investigations were closed when the conclusions reached seem, at best, to amount to what is essentially a working hypothesis.

As indicated in its motion, the Council strongly believes that the investigations should be re- opened and continue until a definitive (or at least more definitive) outcome has been reached and that, in the meantime, those working in the fishing industry who have been adversely affected by these issues should be appropriately supported by the Government.

Thank you for your consideration of this information.

Links:

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/environment/crabs-and-lobster-deaths-university-researchers-find-poisoning-by-industrial-toxins-may-be-the-cause-3861126

https://northeastbylines.co.uk/houchens-dead-crabs-war/

https://northeastbylines.co.uk/killing-joke-how-defra-dismissed-the-tees-bay-die-off/

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/23034510.north-east-councils-refuse-probe-mass-shellfish-deaths/

https://diaryofacouncillor.com/2022/08/21/the-effluent-in-the-room/

https://diaryofacouncillor.com/2022/07/15/crustacean-mortality-in-teesside/

https://northeastbylines.co.uk/north-east-sealife-die-off-rising-tide-of-protest/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/reclaimoursea/?ref=share

https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2022-06-01/no-clear-cause-for-dead-crabs-and-lobsters-washed-up-along-regions-coastline

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/29/apocalyptic-dead-crabs-litter-beaches-north-east-england

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