Environment Agency rules out chemical pollution as likely cause of Teesside crab deaths

Thousands of dead crustaceans have washed up on North East beaches, pictured on Teesside last month Credit: ITV News

The Environment Agency has ruled out chemical pollution as a likely reason thousands of dead crabs and lobsters have been washing up along the beaches of Teesside and North Yorkshire.

Investigators have previously ruled out sewage, undersea cabling, seismic survey activity or dredging as likely causes of the deaths, which have been reported from Hartlepool down to Robin Hoods Bay.

The Environment Agency say they've used a range of screening methods to analyse samples of water, sediment and crab looking for traces of contamination. Over 1,000 potential chemical contaminants have been screened for, but no anomalies have been found that could lead to an event of this scale.

Thousands of crabs and lobsters have been washing up from Hartlepool to Robin Hood's Bay Credit: ITV News

Sarah Jennings said:  “Our environment officers have also reviewed environmental permits and scrutinised industrial sites in the Teesside area, but again found no evidence of abnormal discharges that could lead to an event of this scale. 

“In a bid to better understand the scale of the incident, our survey vessel the Humber Guardian has taken samples from the seabed, which show that that only crabs and lobsters appear to be affected".  

The investigation will now focus more on whether disease or a natural event could have been responsible for the deaths.

In the meantime, although the risk to human life is believed to be low, people are advised not to go near the dead crustaceans.The UK Health Security Agency advises:   

  • Avoid affected areas of beach and coastline where possible     

  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with any affected crustaceans   

  • Do not touch or consume any sick or dead crustaceans that have been washed ashore 

  • Follow general hand hygiene practices – do not just rely on hand gels but wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water    

  • Do not touch your face without washing hands first or whilst washing hands    

  • If you visit the beach take extra care when returning home when removing outer garments such as shoes and wash hands thoroughly afterwards    

  • Keep pets away from any sick or dead crustaceans   

  • There is currently no evidence of any risk to human health relating to consuming crabs and lobsters caught off the North East coast, so the Food Standards Agency is urging consumers to follow usual good hygiene practice when handling and preparing crabs and lobsters to eat. Further guidance on food hygiene can be found on the FSA website.

Anyone who finds dead crustaceans (crabs or lobsters) or other dead wildlife, should report them to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.