current location: current location:home page > Press center6 > Charity asks government to help stricken fishermen text

Charity asks government to help stricken fishermen

2023-06-01 17:31:33 source:CBS News author:Press center 1 click:115order

Just over 18 months ago, waves of dead and dying shellfish began washing up on mile after mile of shoreline in the north-east of England. No-one knew why they were dying or what had killed them and, despite a series of investigations, there is still no definitive answer.

The die-off has had a profound impact on those who rely on catching crustaceans for a living and now a UK charity is urging the government to step in and help a community that is struggling to survive.

The sun is shining on Hartlepool harbour. A couple of fishermen are working on their nets and another is looking out at sea.

It's calm, but he's asking himself, "Is it worth going out today?"

It's a question more and more local fishermen are contemplating.

The industry they were born into was hit hard in 2021 when thousands of dead crabs and lobsters were washed up on the north-east coast. They say wash ups continue today and something new is happening - prawn catches have plummeted by up to 90%.

The price of fuel and running costs have forced around half of those fishermen to put their boats up for sale.

One of them described feeling "trapped" because until his vessel is sold, he needs to find £500 a month while it is in dock.

His earnings are down by £20,000 and his costs are up by £5,000 compared to last year. His family are living off their savings and they are borrowing money from relatives. It's something he and others never thought they'd have to do.

A UK charity is trying to help.

The Fishermen's Mission, which has been running for over 140 years, says the continued economic impact on such a concentrated area is unprecedented.

Chief executive Marc Evans has come to Hartlepool to offer advice and financial support.

For some, it's a difficult subject to discuss. One prawn fisherman tells him the money he has just spent on fuel is money that isn't going home.

"How's the family doing?" Marc asks him. "Nah, don't even want to talk about it," he replies and walks away.

"I feel bloody awful" Marc says. Yet it's a reaction that doesn't come as a surprise to him and he's worried about some fishermen's mental health.

"We're hearing about fishermen in the North East who are contacting us and other charities. They're talking about their mental health and talking about the fact they're seriously contemplating their continued existence in the world.

"They need to know that whatever has happened here is going to change and the stocks are going to regenerate."

That's all Darren Greenwood wants.

He's been fishing for four decades and says the last two years have been the hardest of his life.

"I would like somebody to be able to say to me, look, this is what happened, but it's getting better. You know, next year is going to be better for you.

"I've read so many probabilities and possibilities of what it could be. I've never had a definitive answer of what it actually is."

In January, a report from an independent panel of experts - appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - found it was "about as likely as not" that a new disease or parasite caused the die-off in late 2021.

However, the 12-strong panel could not identify what it was and conceded there was no direct evidence of it. They determined it was possible a combination of factors was to blame.

Many fishermen believe dredging work around Teesside's new Freeport was to blame. Those responsible for creating the Freeport deny that is the case.

The expert panel concluded it was "very unlikely" regular dredging of the Tees was the cause and said capital dredging was "exceptionally unlikely".

Now, the fishermen are working with scientists from Newcastle, Durham and York universities who are testing sea water and sediment samples themselves.

They hope it will give them answers to the questions they still have.

Dr Gary Caldwell, from Newcastle University, is one of those experts.

"We're going to create a full picture of what the chemical risk is, in terms of the North Sea and we're going to relate that back to dredging activity and we're going to see what that connection is," he said.

If there is a connection, the fishermen say they will seek government compensation. Until then, they're struggling to find a solution.

"Who wants to buy a boat with what's happened?" Darren asks. "I'm a fisherman and there aren't many jobs for people like me."

The Fishermen's Mission hopes to support local families until their future becomes clearer. It is now reporting back to government.

Defra says it's already providing millions of pounds through the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme and the UK Seafood Fund but has ruled out any compensation for the losses suffered because of the die-offs.

pursue BBC North East & Cumbria on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Send your story ideas to

author:Press center8
headline news
News Rankings