Campaigners are calling for an end to the dredging of the River Tees

Dead crustaceans on a beach

Lobsters, crabs and other marine life have been found dead in several spots along the northeast coast

Campaigners blaming dredging for shellfish die-off along the northeast coast have called for the practice to be halted in the River Tees as the investigation continues.

Thousands of crabs and lobsters have washed up on spots in Teesside and North Yorkshire since late last year.

Earlier this week it was announced that a panel of independent experts would be set up to investigate the cause.

The organization behind the dredging started according to its own words after the first deaths.

After an initial investigation, the government said a naturally occurring algal bloom was the most likely cause of the incidents, but some fishermen believe the dredging releases a chemical called pyridine.

‘Need a break’

Campaigner Sally Bunce told BBC Look North she welcomed news of the independent panel’s further assessment.

However, she said immediate action was needed as dredging was taking place in the River Tees as part of work to create a free port at South Bank Quay.

“There will be an independent study on the effects of dredging on this die-off, but to me you can’t keep doing what you’re actually researching,” she said.

“You should definitely pause it while you examine it.”

Joe Redfern, from the North East Fishing Collective, added: “We’re not against the free port, we’re not against development.

“They could continue dredging but take everything to the landfill where it wouldn’t release toxins into the sea.”

‘Draw a line’

The South Tees Development Corporation said the work “met the highest legal standards and requirements set out in licenses and guidelines”.

A spokesperson added: “We welcome [the] the government’s work to establish an independent panel to review the evidence surrounding shellfish die-offs to finally draw a line under this issue.

“Environmental standards are important to us and, as we have done everywhere, we will always abide by the rules and laws set by government agencies. We continue to follow all standards set by Defra and the Marine Management Organization, which continue to exclude dredging as a probable cause of the crustacean deaths.

“Our only dredging to date began on September 1, almost a year after the October 2021 die-off. [and] had no problems.”

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