Parliamentary inquiry proposed to examine mass shellfish deaths off North East coast

Thousands of dead crabs, lobsters and other shellfish were found washed up on the region's shorelines in October 2021. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Parliament's Environment Committee could hold take a fresh look at evidence into the deaths of thousands of shellfish off the North East and North Yorkshire coast.

ITV Tyne Tees understands that Sir Robert Goodwill, who chairs the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and represents Scarborough and Whitby in the House of Commons, is proposing an inquiry into the deaths.

It is likely to involve a single day of witnesses' evidence on the issue

It is also understood that the university scientists who recently said industrial toxins were the most likely cause have also been asked to give evidence.

The remains of thousands of crabs, lobsters and other shellfish first began washing up on shores across the region in October 2021, prompting concern from the local fishing community.

An investigation by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) previously concluded the deaths were most likely due to naturally occurring algal bloom.

However in the wake of that report, the North East Fishing Collective (NEFC) commissioned scientists from Newcastle, Durham, York and Hull universities to investigate the sediment dredged from the River Tees, as well as the toxic effects of pyridine - a 'legacy pollutant' from the area's steelmaking past - on crabs.

It found that healthy crabs, which were exposed to levels of pyridine of less than 25% of that detected in specimens in Saltburn, died within six hours.

It also concluded that pyridine was present in sediment taken from the River Tees, prompting questions about dredging of the riverbed as part of the Teesport project.

DEFRA said it welcomed the report and would be working with the universities on the issue - but said its earlier research 'found no evidence' to suggest dredging was a likely cause.

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