Whitby and Scarborough fishermen join protest at River Tees as they fear "final and fatal" blow to fishing industry

Fishermen from Whitby and along the Yorkshire coastline were this morning (May 19) staging a protest on the River Tees as the fishing industry's shellfish crisis deepens.

By Duncan Atkins
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 5:00 pm

They displayed banners and flags in protest at the decimation of their livelihoods and lack of support since the crab and lobster die-off in October last year.

Following their own investigation utilising the services of marine pollution scientist Tim Deere-Jones, they refute the Defra theory of the most likely cause being a harmful algal bloom

Instead, they believe the answer lies in the 250,000 tonnes of sediment dredged and dumped 2.5 miles offshore.

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Whitby boat Arkane was among the boats in the protest at South Gare.

The independent investigation into the deaths of thousands of crabs and lobsters in Yorkshire and the North East found that they may have been caused by a chemical leak.

There are grave concerns that the "already dying" inshore waters will receive a final and fatal blow which could last for decades and impact other industries, including tourism.

Commercial fisherman Dean Clews, owner of Michelle S, was among the 12 Whitby boats at the Tees this morning.

They were joined by skippers from all around the coastline, from Scarborough to Hartlepool, at the early morning protest at South Gare.

"We're protesting over the fact that the sealife and lobsters are all dead," said Mr Clews, 50.

"It's to show people who can't understand what's going on under the water that they need to know that it's really bad, what's going on."

"Defra have ruled out it being chemicals but said it might be algal bloom.

"We want something to say it was it was definitely that, not that we think it was.

"We had another wash-up last week of dead lobsters - they washed up at Saltwick, Skinningrove, Saltburn and South Gare - what are they going to say now, that it was algal bloom?

"It's not as if it's confined to the Tees, it's all the way along the coast."

Mr Clews said he "hasn't the heart" to go out to his pots, which he took out a couple of weeks ago.

He said fishermen have gone from having good days to catching "absolutely nothing" and finding dead crabs and lobsters in pots again.

Joe Redfern, co-founder of Whitby Lobster Hatchery, a marine biologist and chairman of Whitby Commercial Fishing Association, is calling for Defra to reopen the case and take it very seriously.

"It is deeply concerning," he said.

"The catch rates have dropped, there is no life in the rock pools, there are dead and dying marine animals washing up and in our pots.

"We are facing a huge ecological disaster."

James Cole, chairman of Whitby Commercial Fishing Association, said: "We have nothing against the Freeport and the jobs it will create.

"We just want the construction work to be done in a way that doesn't destroy our environment and way of life.

"Yes to the Freeport, no to the killing."

Edith Reeve, the area representative for Surfers Against Sewage, said: "I am concerned for the health of the thousands of people who enjoy our waters and beaches for recreation and sports."

A keen sea swimmer, she said she has now stopped swimming in the sea.