University of Teesside expert worries about dying marine life

As more and more dead marine life washes up on beaches on the northeast coast, experts say they still don’t know what’s causing the devastation.

From crabs and fish to birds, the past few weeks have seen a devastation of marine life washing up on the beaches of Redcar and Seaton Carew.

Dr Jamie Bojko, a lecturer in biology at the University of Teesside, is monitoring the situation and has become very concerned.

Dr Bojko said: ‘The short answer to what is killing our marine life is that we don’t know yet. The Environment Agency and the Center for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) have taken samples for toxicological and pathological analyses, but the results are not yet available.

Recently, fish and porpoises have washed up on beaches, but experts aren’t sure if it’s all connected.

Read more: What the Environment Agency says about dead marine life washing up on North East beaches

Dr Bojko added: “I am hopeful that the diagnostics can answer these questions for us. If birds and marine life appear to harbor the same toxicological/pathological agent, there may be a clear answer. However, at this time, it is not known if the events are related.

“There have also been reports of fish and a porpoise stranded on this same coastline over the past month – these also remain unlinked at present, but the investigation would benefit from acquiring samples to test and compare. ”

Experts have put forward some theories as to the cause of the dead crabs.

Crabs live in shallower water in the summer, then move to deeper water in the winter.

This makes them prone to storms and harsh weather in the summer, which could explain why they wash up on beaches.

Environmentalists have also put forward theories about pollution, dredging on tees and disease as possible causes.

Dr Bojko added: “If it is a natural disaster, such as extreme weather conditions or an underwater phenomenon, man-made or not, it would not be possible to identify such a cause in laboratory.

“Instead, we may have to go back to our weather systems, our underwater monitoring systems, or our (un)programmed industrial processes, to see if there might be something coinciding with the loss of the marine life.

“I’m confident that EA and Cefas will look into these systems, to see if there may be an artificial or natural process that could have caused the death of the animals.

“Another natural process that could be at play is disease.

“Diseases have been shown to cause the death of large numbers of animals – take crayfish plague which infects our native white-clawed crayfish and was introduced by the invasive signal crayfish.

“When this pathogen enters a freshwater system, large numbers of crayfish can die and wash up along the river bank a few days later.

Read more: MP: “I am not a monster who wants to dump sewage into our waters”

“We are aware of many diseases in our crab species in the UK, but none of them have been implicated in huge losses like those we are seeing on the Tees coast.

“In this most recent marine event, it is possible that a disease was the cause of the crabs and other stranded animals; however, if these different events are linked, it is less likely that a single disease was involved.

“At the moment it is unclear why the coastline around Teesside is impacted and not elsewhere.

“However, since we are dealing with a localized event, it provides a greater ability to monitor what is happening.

“If the event were on a much larger scale, it would be harder to find the answers we need.”

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