Forgotten fishermen caught in the middle of a storm over the North Sea crustacean deaths last night asked ‘what about us’, after a report into the wash-ups was published.
Fishermen working off the Teesside coast have told how they’re struggling to make a living with depleted numbers of sea life following mass deaths.
A fresh report into the deaths released at noon on Friday was unable to find a conclusive cause for the mass wash-ups.
The Crustacean Mortality Expert Panel (CMEP) said it was “exceptionally unlikely” dredging was the cause and backtracked on a previous Defra report which suggested the deaths were due to an algal bloom.
But fishermen speaking to The Northern Echo reiterated their concerns as they have been left suffering as a political row rages on over the issue.
Hartlepool Fisherman Paul Graves said: “If my wife stopped working I would be screwed.
“I used to go two miles out and would never go more than six, but now I have to go 20 miles out to have any chance of catching anything.
“It’s hardly worth going out anymore.
“My best January I went out 28 times; I’ve only been out twice so far this month and we’re at the 20th.
“We want compensation – it’s destroying our livelihoods.”
The Echo first spoke to fishermen on the frontline of the crisis in May 2022, when they told us they felt let down by a lack of action.
Paul Widdowfield, a fellow Hartlepool fisherman added: “I used to work with my three sons but they’re all working at shore.
“We’ve got three boats and I’m working them myself. I’m going to have to sell if it gets any worse.”
“All we want now is the fish back. The politicians are doing nothing but fighting amongst themselves.”
Mass wash-ups of dead crustaceans on the Teesside coast were first reported in October 2021, and have led to growing discontent among the fishing industry, with some believing that chemicals disturbed by dredging on the Tees riverbed was responsible.
But the report published on Friday found no conclusive cause of the deaths.
Teesside MPs returned to political infighting yesterday with Conservative Simon Clarke calling out Labour politicians for “recklessly propounding conspiracy theory”.
He said: “I'm afraid there has been an attempt to shamelessly exploit people's concerns for political effect by Labour politicians, with former Redcar MP Anna Turley and Alex Cunningham in particular recklessly propounding conspiracy theory.
"If they had succeeded in their campaign, they would have stopped vital work to prepare the Tees for new jobs and opportunities and would have shattered investor confidence in the whole project, risking jobs and growth.
"And why did they do this? I'm afraid it was because they were so desperate to attack the excellent achievements of the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen. They would happily see Teesside fail if they thought they could score a point against a Conservative Mayor.”
Meanwhile Labour Stockton MP Alex Cunningham added: “Sadly local Tories seem to think the matter is now closed with this report and are more concerned with protecting the Tees Valley Mayor’s flagship policy.”
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