Many of you may recall that I recently reported here concerning a major ecological disaster that had befallen the North East of England, in which mass die-offs of crustaceans had been swept up onto the beaches between Teesside and Whitby. The devastation has virtually destroyed crab and lobster fishing within the area and there is no sign of a let up. DEFRA investigated the deaths and astonishingly declared that a natural algal bloom was the most likely cause. Local fishermen dismissed the findings as rubbish, pointing the finger instead at a chemical called pyridine, which may have been re-released into the water column following dredging related to the Tees Port development. DEFRA has stuck to its guns and refuses to re-open the enquiry. Consequently, the local fisherman crowd-funded an independent study to be performed by a consortium of local universities. This is what has been announced today:
“Crab deaths may have been caused by poisoning by industrial toxins and not algal bloom.
Fresh research has suggested that the mass crab deaths seen on Teesside shores are “more consistent with poisoning by industrial toxins”.
Commissioned by the North East Fishing Collective, the investigation saw academics come together to determine whether pyridine is toxic to edible crabs following the mass crustacean die-offs seen across Teesside over the last year. Durham University, one of the academic institutions taking part in the study, found that satellite imagery “does show a marine algal bloom off Teesside at around the time of the Oct 2021 mass mortality event.” However, it said that not all blooms are harmful and that this one was “not unusually large,” with several larger blooms in 2021 and 2022 occurring without causing the mass die-offs.
The research described how harmful algal blooms “usually kill a broad range of organisms” but that the Teesside events disproportionately affected crabs and lobsters, which showed “an unusual twitching behaviour.” It found that pyridine “can induce exactly the same twitching behaviour as seen in affected Teesside crabs.”
The report’s conclusions outlined that “pyridine in seawater is highly toxic to crabs even at low levels, showing indications of attacking the nervous system as evidenced by the twitching and convulsing behaviours.” It described the death as “rapid” at the upper tested concentration, with lower concentrations causing “partial paralysis.”
Other findings noted that pyridine was found “in both near-shore and offshore sediments,” and that Teesside industrial plant Vertellus is known to have handled large amounts of the chemical before 2019. Computer simulations also predicted elevated quantities of pyridine could be transported to as far as Whitby, using current and tide data.
Conservationist Sally Bunce said she was “absolutely ecstatic” about the findings, explaining: “For the last six or seven months I’ve been accused of being a conspiracy theorist, talking utter rubbish, by various people. This proves that actually, not only are we not conspiracy theorists, but we have gone above and beyond to prove scientifically what the cause was.
“The fishermen have had to crowdfund £30k to fund this themselves. It’s like Christmas for me. Let’s hope now that we get this independent review done and we get a halt on the dredging and we test the whole of the area.
“Now we know that it is a killer of marine life, we can’t go chucking stuff out at sea anymore. We’ve got to look at other ways. The data clearly shows that the toxic plume could spread down as far as Whitby. We could wipe out the tourist industry way below Bridlington if we’re not careful.”
Alongside the North East Fishing Collective, other organisations involved in the study included The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust, Whitby Lobster Hatchery, and multiple academic institutions such as Newcastle University, the University of Hull, the University of York, and Durham University.
I don’t think this can be dismissed as a simple case of incompetence on the part of DEFRA. What we have seen here is a wilful, government sponsored attempt to cover up a major pollution event. It has been politicised science at its very worst. What more do we ‘deniers’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’ have to do to convince the public that the idea of governments following the science is so often a monstrous deception?