Fishing ultimatum: Explosive letter after thousands of dead crabs wash up on UK shores

Jersey crab exporter on how fishing row has affected business

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Fishing and angling associations impacted by the deaths of thousands of crustaceans along the shores of England’s East Coast have called for the resignation of the bosses at the North Eastern Inshore and Fishing Conservation Authority (NEIFCA) over their “disregard for the concerns of the communities and natural environments of the East coast they are employed and paid to serve and protect”.

Large numbers of crustaceans were spotted by locals at Seaton Carew, Redcar and Seaham, closely followed by Marske and Saltburn.

As crabs and lobsters lay in big piles on the floor, residents who walk along the beaches regularly said they had seen nothing like it before, not even after heavy storms.

The Environment Agency (EA) confirmed it had launched an inquiry on October 25, after Redcar MP Jacob Young raised the matter in the House of Commons.

NEIFCA was one of the marine bodies officially involved in the probe – but months later, investigations have advanced little to nothing.

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The “poor” management of NEIFCA, which is taxpayer-funded and has a budget of more than £1million, has put “put our livelihoods, our communities, and the future of our industry at stake”, the fishermen wrote in their letter.

At an online association meeting held in December to discuss the phenomenon, Chief David McCandless and Deputy Chief Ian Davis did not attend, sending a representative instead.

At the session, it was concluded a critical step in understanding the impact of the incident was to undertake population analysis of the impacted areas and agreed NEIFCA, as the local agency, would conduct the research.

However, “over two months after this meeting, and by NEIFCA’s own admission, no action has been taken to investigate impacted populations”.

The letter reads: “CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) has made frequent appeals for samples of crustaceans along with information on stock assessments from the fishing industry.

“NEIFCA has failed to conduct even the most basic population impact assessment nor to provide CEFAS with recent crustacea samples or data.”

It continues: “At such a time of crisis we needed and expected urgency, direction, and transparency from NEIFCA.

“Proactive and effective investigation and support for the industry is paramount to responding to such crises.

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“Not only did David McCandless and Ian Davies fail to act proactively with any urgency, nor with any transparency, but their actions displayed an outright disregard and flippancy to the severity of the event, a disregard to questions and requests on the matter that were posed directly to them, and a disregard for the concerns of the communities and natural environments of the East coast they are employed and paid to serve and protect.”

The eight groups that signed the letter asked for NEIFCA to undertake an independent review of its management, for Mr McCandless and Mr Davies to resign, and for replacements to be made transparently with the interests of the local fishing industry in mind.

They claimed: “A dramatic lack of representation nor engagement with local communities have stagnated NEIFCA which operates without initiative or intuition.

“We demand better for our environment, better for our livelihoods and better for our communities.”

Lead responsibility for the investigation was passed to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, last month.

A spokesman said the EA and science advisors Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture, have undertaken extensive tests looking to determine the cause.

They added the EA had not identified any chemical contamination in the area likely to have caused the deaths.

The NEIFCA has been approached for comment.

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