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British Ports Association: No ‘credible evidence’ to pause dredging

Calls for no new restrictions on dredging in River Tees without 'credible evidence'

Posted on December 12, 2022

The British Ports Association has written to the UK Parliament Environment, Food & Rural Affairs select committee to express concerns over the Committee’s recommendations on dredging, warning certain conclusions reached in the paper are not “credible or even reflective of the results found by the researcher”.

Last month the Committee wrote to Ministers with a series of recommendations including reviews of dredging activity, reviews of licence conditions, the ‘minimising’ of dredging until investigations are complete, and new dredging assessments.

The parliamentary committee urged the government to further investigate the mass sea life deaths off the North East coast and provide more support for fishermen, but recommended dredging should continue.

The BPA said it does not believe the conclusions reached in the paper are “credible or even reflective of the results found by the researcher”.

They also say the results in the paper suggest that over 5,000 dredge disposal events would have had to occur in a single day to have the impact stated in the report, and claim the report contains ‘factual errors’.

A mass die-off saw huge numbers of crustaceans wash up on Teesside’s shores last October. DEFRA has ruled it is due to an algal bloom and it was unlikely that dredging, chemical or sewage pollution or animal disease had been the cause., but campaigners continue to dispute the findings.

PD Ports, the authority managing the River Tees, says it carries out maintenance dredging all year round and is not to blame.

There have been calls by some campaigners and Labour MPs to pause dredging for the new South Bank Quay at Teesworks pending a full analysis of the situation.

But now, the British Ports Association say the Committee’s recommendations have been based upon the idea that there are two competing theories to explain the cause of the mortality event, one put forward by regulators and another by a marine scientist commissioned by the local fishing industry.

Having reviewed a copy of the paper, which has not been formally published, the BPA is “concerned that recommendations that could have far-reaching consequences for the ports industry are being made based on its conclusions”.

Mark Simmonds, director of policy and external affairs at BPA, said: “We have become increasingly alarmed at some of the statements and recommendations that have been made based on what we believe is unconvincing or erroneous evidence.

!We are pleased that the Minister has defended the robust procedures that are in place and the expert advice available from regulators. We hope that Defra Ministers continue to back the Government’s own expert scientific advice.

“Dredging is fundamental to the safe continued operation of UK ports which are in turn critical to UK logistics, energy, defence, and indeed fishing. No port dredges more than the minimum necessary to allow for the safe navigation of vessels, not least because of the cost.

“Dredging is a routine practice in most ports, nevertheless there are strong processes in place to protect the marine environment and activity is overseen by world-class marine scientists at various regulators and agencies.”

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