North East coast pollution: Defra report, algal bloom & dog illness update

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Defra conducted research into the cause of washed up crabs and lobsters in the North East

The Government has stated that 'algal bloom' caused the death of many crabs and lobsters on the North East coast, a trend that some thought may have caused a spate of localised dog illnesses.

The 'thorough investigation' was completed by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) after masses of dead crabs and lobsters were being washed up on the North East coast at the end of 2021.

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Shortly after the shellfish deaths were happening, a number of dogs in the North East and Yorkshire began to suffer from a localised sickness.

It led to many speculating that the state of beaches in the region were at the root of the dogs' illnesses.

However, early on BVA President Justine Shotton said there is not enough evidence to show the cause is linked to beaches or other environmental factors.

She said: "We are aware of a recent spike in cases of dogs falling ill from gastroenteritis-like symptoms in several parts of Yorkshire and North East England.

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"Vets see gastroenteritis cases relatively commonly in practice, but numbers seem to be increasing and more widespread than usual.

“At this time, we can’t speculate on what might be causing the symptoms, and there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between the illness and the dogs visiting the beaches.

“We’ve heard reports from vets in the area who are really far inland and they are also seeing an increase in these kinds of cases in dogs that have never been to the beach, so I’m not sure yet if we have enough information to make that link.”

A woman walks her dog in Leazes Park (Image: Getty Images)A woman walks her dog in Leazes Park (Image: Getty Images)
A woman walks her dog in Leazes Park (Image: Getty Images)

Despite that one Teeside marine biologist said he was 99.9% sure the cause of the pet illness was related to the coast.

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He told TeesideLive: "I am 99.9 per cent certain that this week-long dredging operation unearthed some historical toxins.

"It dumped the spoil about three to four miles off - fishermen found hundreds of dead seabirds floating at the site.

"We have asked Defra to take samples from the dredged area and the recent animals and if necessary send samples to Porton Down for analysis specifically cyanide and dioxins."

The Tees Estuary in Redcar (Image: Getty Images)The Tees Estuary in Redcar (Image: Getty Images)
The Tees Estuary in Redcar (Image: Getty Images)

Defra's report this month looked to rule out possible causes, landing on the decision that "the deaths of the crabs and lobsters potentially resulted from a naturally occurring harmful algal bloom".

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The report states: "From the evidence found during the investigation it is unlikely that chemical pollution, sewage or infectious aquatic animal diseases were the cause of the deaths.

"No traces of chemical contaminants have been found that could have caused an event of this scale.

"Follow up survey work carried out by the Environment Agency on the 18th and 19th of January 2022 has also shown live healthy crabs present in the area, albeit in reduced numbers.

"A review of dredging activity and water samples found no evidence of a link between the disposal of dredged sediment and the deaths."

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