Shellfish deaths: Government decision on financial support for fishermen ‘disappointing’ says MP for Scarborough and Whitby

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Scarborough and Whitby’s MP has said he is “disappointed” by a Government decision to not offer compensation to fishermen affected by shellfish deaths but is not in favour of a public inquiry.

Sir Robert Goodwill MP has said a Government decision to not offer financial compensation to fishermen whose livelihoods have been impacted by the die-offs of shellfish on the Yorkshire and Cleveland coast is “disappointing”.

In May, North Yorkshire Council passed a motion calling on the Government to offer financial support and establish a public inquiry into the “unexplained die-offs and wash-ups” of crustaceans since October 2021.

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However, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it “will not be providing compensation or specific support to fishermen” affected.

Fishermen at protests earlier this yearFishermen at protests earlier this year
Fishermen at protests earlier this year

The MP for Scarborough and Whitby, who is also chair of parliament’s food and environment select committee, said: “My select committee did ask the Government to look at ways of supporting the most badly affected fishermen, but it is the case that we’d need to know how long the situation is going to be in place.”

He added: “My heart goes out to people whose businesses have been decimated by this situation.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), he said the Government’s decision on financial support was “disappointing for both me and fishermen concerned”.

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Following the call from North Yorkshire Council, Defra was also asked whether the Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, would consider establishing a public inquiry into the deaths and wash-ups of crustaceans since October 2021.

The department told the LDRS that “no further analysis of samples from that period is planned” but added that “analytical work since the event began will enable further improvements to diagnosis of cause if a similar incident were to occur in the future”.

Commenting on the call for a public inquiry, Sir Robert said: “We’ve had an inquiry from the best scientific minds in the country, I don’t think a public inquiry, which by definition would involve a load of lawyers, would really come to any different conclusion.

“I certainly won’t be recommending to the Government that they should allow a public inquiry on this.”

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He added: “Although [the scientific evidence] is less than conclusive on the novel pathogen, it is absolutely conclusive that the capital dredging of the Tees was not to blame for the shellfish mortality for a number of reasons, the most notable being that it was nine months or so before the last capital dredging and the mortality event.”

The Government said that it has provided “a range of support to the English seafood sector” including £100m to the UK Seafood Fund.