Campaigners who blame dredging for a die-off of shellfish along the North East coast have called for a halt to the practice in the River Tees while investigations continue.

In October 2021, thousands of dead crabs and lobsters were found washed up on the Tees estuary and neighbouring north-east beaches. Countless crustaceans were found, with Marske and Saltburn said to be experiencing particularly high numbers. Last week it was announced that an independent panel would be established to investigate the cause.



Back in February 2022, Defra and partner agencies completed an investigation and following testing and modelling to rule out possible causes, they concluded that the deaths potentially resulted from a naturally occurring algal bloom. This was disputed by fishermen and local campaigners who suspected that pyridine released by dredging was the real reason.

‘Immediate action needed’

Campaigner Sally Bunce told BBC Look North she welcomed the news of the independent panel’s further assessment. However, she said action was needed immediately as dredging was taking place in the River Tees as part of work to create a freeport at South Bank Quay.

“There’s going to be an independent investigation into the effects of dredging on this die-off, but to me you can’t continue doing what you’re actually investigating,” she said. “You surely have to pause it while you investigate.”

Joe Redfern, of the North East Fishing Collective, added: “We’re not against the freeport, we’re not against development. They could continue the dredging but take everything to landfill where it wouldn’t be releasing toxins into the sea.”

‘Draw a line’

The BBC has reported that the South Tees Development Corporation said work had “complied with the highest legal standards and requirements laid down in licences and guidance”. A spokesperson added: “We welcome [the] government’s work to establish an independent panel to assess the evidence surrounding the shellfish die-offs to finally draw a line under this matter.”

“Environmental standards are important to us and, as we have throughout, we will always adhere to the rules and laws set by government agencies. We continue to follow all the standards set out by Defra and the Marine Management Organisation, who continue to rule out dredging as a likely cause of the crustacean deaths. Our only dredging to date, began on 1 September, almost a year after the die-off in October 2021, [and] had no issues.”

No Comment

Comments are closed.