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**Summary of Known Facts** - 14th January 2023

  1. Pyridine is highly toxic to crabs (submitted paper) and was detected at levels 70 times higher in local dead crabs than in control crabs.
  2. Pyridine was found in sediment throughout the River Tees including the spoil disposal ground.
  3. The sediment plume from the dredge location and disposal site spread as far as Whitby (Newcastle University press release), in contradiction to DEFRA's claim that it would have remained close to the spoil ground used as the reason to rule out dredging as cause of the mass marine mortality event of October 2021.
  4. Sediment from the South Bank Quay site has not been tested for pyridine despite these samples being obtained after the first marine mortality event and the discovery of pyridine in the flesh of local dead crabs.
  5. The marine die off has continued for 16 months spanning multiple species and local fishermen report catches still being 95% down.
  6. Fishermen, academics and concerned members of the public fully support the freeport and the regeneration of Teesside but request it is done with human and environmental welfare at the front.

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Sea life die off timeline - updated 12th March 2023:

  • In October 2021 there was a mass die off of crabs from Hartlepool in the north to Whitby in the south - further die off of marine life seem to have been continuing
  • The initial die off correlated with accelerated maintenance dredging to remove an underwater landslide in the River Tees - this could have included contaminated sediments from historical industrial activity it would certainly not just have been the normal sand / sediment washed downstream
  • This was also when serious work was going on on the South Tees site - specifically removal of heavy oil tanks, removal of piling by river bank and explosive demolition of Dorman Long tower, part of the South Bank Coke Ovens - Teesworks - Timeline
  • DEFRA carried out an investigation in 2022 - the investigation stated that the initial die off was caused by an algal bloom - ruling out dredging as a possible cause - Joint agency investigation into Teesside and Yorkshire Coast Crab and Lobster mortalities - Investigation Summary
  • The fishermen crowd funded research at Newcastle, York, Durham and Hull to investigate possible chemical cause - Mass Marine Mortality Events - Summary
  • Parliamentary Environment Food and Farming Committee (PEFRAC) held a session with evidence from all parties involved, on the basis of this PEFRAC wrote to DEFRA asking for an independent enquiry and sampling of the contamination in the River Tees, this was promised to be open and take evidence from all sides
  • Universities request of samples from the dredging has been contiually refused, some fishermen have taken some surface samples
  • 9th January Jenni Russel's article from the Times is good statement of how things are
  • In January the Crustacean Expert Marine Panel reported in a report “Independent expert assessment of unusual crustacean mortality in the North-east of England in 2021 and 2022” - Independent expert assessment of unusual crustacean mortality in the North-east of England in 2021 and 2022 - Augmented Report
    • The report ruled out an algal bloom, pyridine, any chemical contaminants and dredging of the river Tees
    • The report concluded the die off was as likely as not to be caused by a novel pathogen
    • The report claimed that pyridine was a natural product formed in crab tissue on death, crowd funded university work is underway to determine whether this is the case or not
  • These conclusions have led people to question the panel's independence, no doubt unfairly, probably more to due with evidence they were provided with and limited remit. In the end the fisherman's scientific advisers were not asked to justify their conclusions which are largely rubbished in the report. In fact the reference cited for pyridine being a natural product of decomposition of crab tissue, in fact is about finding chemicals which are biomarkers for human tissue, so yes pyridine is formed when other species tissue decay's but less than human's.
  • John Bothwell's thread on the report -
  • Jenni Russel in Times wrote a reasonable summary of the state of things -
  • In February DEFRA secretary of state Theresa Coffey said that there was no intention to investigate further as they were unlikely to be able to find the novel pathogen so long after the event (people have said that this sort of things ends well when we don't track novel diseases - avian flu, covid, HIV, etc..)
  • Meanwhile further sea life die off appears to be continuing and recently surfers have been reporting unusual sickness and skin rashes after surfing locally

Fairly neutral summaries are articles by Jenni Russel in the Times, Channel 4 reporting ( and even Countryfile piece (, needless to say all upset proponents of the Teesside Freeport which the capital dredging is being carried out for.

mass_marine_mortality_events_-_summary.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/02 18:09 by