Dead Crustaceans (North-East Coast)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:55 pm on 28th June 2022.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:55 pm, 28th June 2022

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s intervention, and will mention that very chemical later in my speech.

Our local fishing industry, which was already in a perilous state as a result of Brexit and the pandemic, deserves more robust answers from the Government. Will the Minister explain to our fishing communities why DEFRA will not reopen the investigation? As she knows, many in the fishing community believe that the cause of the die-offs may be linked to the dredging of the Tees in connection with the establishment of the Tees freeport, which is potentially stirring up historical pollutants. With a further 2 million tonnes of sediment licensed to be dredged from the Tees this summer and dumped at sea, can the Minister explain why the decontamination and repurposing of that sediment is not being considered, when no definitive cause of the die-offs has been established and dredging has remained a constant over the past nine months?

Indeed, some have suggested a direct link between the location and timings of the dredging by the UKD Orca and the die-offs. To that end, can the Minister confirm whether the spoil site where 250,000 tonnes of dredged sediment was dumped by the UKD Orca between 26 September 2021 and 5 October 2021 has been sampled and tested? I am aware of the Department’s response, which says that dredged material

“must meet the highest international standards protecting marine life” before it can be disposed of at sea, but there are concerns that those standards are not robust enough, and that they allow the companies that want to dispose of that material too much latitude in the collection of samples. My understanding is that such sampling happens every few years, and there is no specific sampling at the sites people believe may be connected with the die-offs. I recognise that the Department has far greater expertise in this area than I do, but the fact is that the local community is still grasping for answers.