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October 2021 saw the wash up of tens of thousands of dead and dying crab and lobster along 40 mile stretch of north east coastline adjacent to the River Tees.

This coincided with the start of demolition works involving massive explosions and the tearing out of the old jetty from the site earmarked to become the UK's first Freeport. The dredging of 148,000 tonnes of Tees sediment and subsequent disposal at sea was also happening simultaneously. The spread of the sediment plume created by the intensive dredging at the time of the mass crustacean die off mirrored the impacted zone.

Fishermen working within this 40 mile death zone suffered the collapse of their ancient industry. Many have sold their boats signalling an end to centuries old family traditions.

This devastation has continued. By January 2023 , wash ups involving shrimp, sprats, octopus, starfish, razor clams, welks, mussels and miles of dead kelp forest have become a regular occurrence.

Seal pups starved to death and an entire ecosystem has collapsed.

The River Tees has a history of toxic industry spanning over a century. For decades millions of tonnes of highly contaminated effluent were dumped into the Tees. The river was dead and its surface bubbled from the chemical contamination. Improvements in environmental legislation saw life return to the river.

The toxins from the water column were locked into the metres of sediment covering the Tees riverbed. But now the creation of the Freeport requires millions of tonnes of this sediment to be dredged out resulting in the toxic legacy of Teesside being released back into the marine ecosystem.

DEFRA multi-agency (initially) investigated, concluding in May 2022; an ‘algal bloom’ was the possible cause.

Dismayed by the above report; academics from Newcastle, Durham, Hull and York Universities were requested by fishermen to investigate; concluding October 2022 Pyridine (by-product of the Tees steel industry) was the most likely cause.

(DEFRA had already detected Pyridine at levels 70 times higher in the northeast dead crabs than in comparison crabs from other UK locations.)

DEFRA convened an ‘expert panel’ at the insistence of a EFRA parliamentary committee in October 2022- performing a desk based exercise reviewing available materials; concluding in Jan 2023 - algal bloom, toxic contamination inc pyridine and dredging were unlikely, very unlikely, exceptionally unlikely - respectively. Proposing a new unidentified disease or parasite as the die off cause - (with zero sample evidence).

South Tees Development Corporation are planning to escalate their dredging and dumping into the North Sea imminently.

Given the entirely contradictory conclusions, we call for immediate independent rigorous sampling (which has not yet taken place) and research plus adoption of the precautionary principle which demands a halt of conduct likely to cause harm to the environment whilst investigative work is undertaken.

May we also remind local and national government of Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) as agreed and adopted at 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal December 2022, which we are a signature.

We demand:

1. DEFRA to support further fully independent research to identify cause of die off- including direct sampling and quantitative risk modelling. If DEFRA are unwilling to assist, then at least - ensure that independence parities are given permissions to take independent samples and provide personnel as ‘witness’ for validation purposes.

2. South Tees Development Corporation to voluntarily pause capital dredging, or Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to revoke licence awarded to South Tees Development Corporation for dredging, until at least all NEW scientific investigations are reported.

3. Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to insist on best available mitigation strategies for any future capital dredging of Tees estuary, and abandon any future plans for dumping in North Sea.

4. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP to agree to liaise prospectively with European neighbours prior to any further capital dredge given potential material risk to North Sea and European waters.

To support, please:

1. Sign petition.

2. Share, share,. share.. via at least one of - Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, email.

3. Consider financial support to ongoing legal costs - via link:

Links below to some info already in public domain:

Augmented version with links to some of the evidence and background - Independent expert assessment of unusual crustacean mortality in the North-east of England in 2021 and 2022 - Augmented Report

petition_to_pause_dredging.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/02 18:09 by