Concerns mount over thousands of dead crabs washed up on North East beaches

The government is investigating why countless dead crabs and lobsters are washing up on North East beaches.

Thousands of crustaceans have been found dead on beaches across the region and North Yorkshire, with Marske and Saltburn experiencing particularly high numbers in recents days.

Environmentalists are voicing concerns about a detrimental and lasting impact on the ecosystem, while the local fishing industry has reported a 95% decline in their lobster and crab catch.

The phenomenon was first reported in early October in Seaton Carew, Redcar and further north in Seaham. The Environment Agency launched an investigation to determine whether pollution may be responsible.

No official theories have, as yet, been given for the cause - but speculation surrounding pollution and water toxicity have caused concern among locals. The beach between Redcar, Marske and Saltburn is a popular stretch for dog walkers, who want to know if their pets are in danger.

Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland councils are waiting for more information from the investigation to establish whether they need to take any further action.

Last month, ITV News Tyne Tees reported that hundreds of seabirds were being found dead on the shores of Northumberland.

There is currently no suggestion that the two phenomena are linked.

The Marine Management Organisation have said they are not aware of any evidence of pollution.

Earlier this month, sea life pathologist at Teesside University Dr Jamie Bojko told ITV News Tyne Tees he thinks a "singular event" is likely to be the cause.

It has also shared samples with Cefas labs for disease analysis. (Cefas - the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science - is part of DEFRA).

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

"We are working with partners at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and North Eastern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority to investigate why hundreds of dead crabs have washed up along the shore in the Tees Estuary and neighbouring beaches.

Research indicates that subsea power cables can interfere with crab behaviour.

Responding to suggestions that the newly operational 450 metre Northumberland-Norway "interconnector" may be responsible for the deaths, the National Grid said:

“We are not aware of cables such as the NSL cable harming crabs. Our cables cover a small footprint of around 10 metres wide and head directly from Blyth across the North Sea to Norway.  They are well buried into the seabed and are made up of several layers including steel wires that are unlikely to be broken by wildlife."