Thousands of dead shellfish wash up on North Yorkshire coast

Thousands of dead and dying shellfish have washed up on a beach in North Yorkshire.

Visitors to Saltburn-by-the-Sea came across hundreds of thousands of dead mussels on the shoreline, along with starfish - some of which were barely moving - crabs, and razor clams.

Stuart Marshall, 58, who owns the colourful beach huts on the promenade, launched a clean-up on the sands.

"It's devastating," he told the PA news agency. "There's starfish dead, clams, oysters and crabs."

He said a large deposit of black debris on the beach - which some said was sea coal - had just arrived on the tide and was not normally present.

But Mr Marshall said she does not believe the particles are coal, adding: "We do get bits of coal from time to time but not anything like this."

He also questioned the possible explanation that rough seas had killed the creatures, saying the waters had been calm lately.

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Concerns about freeport as dead marine life wash up on Teesside beaches

The Environment Agency said its experts had concluded the wash-up was "a natural event" and "normal for this time of year".

"We can confirm the black substance washed up on the beach is coal deposit, which is not unusual for this stretch of coastline. This is likely to be in the intertidal system for a while given recent weather conditions so may continue to happen in the coming weeks and months," a spokesperson said.

"Creatures like starfish, razor clams and mussels occupy similar rocky habitat and are easily dislodged during storm events. And the physiology of juvenile flounder makes them vulnerable to being stranded on shallow gradient beaches such as Saltburn.

"While we know people are concerned, the combination of recent heavy swell, spring tides and onshore winds means natural wash ups will occur more often."

Same stretch of coast previously saw mass crustacean die-off

A previous mass crustacean die-off occurred on the same stretch of the North East coast in late 2021.

It sparked a series of investigations, which have proved controversial to this day.

In January, a panel of independent experts convened by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs chief scientific officer Gideon Henderson concluded: "A novel pathogen is considered the most likely cause of mortality."

However, the panel was "unable to identify a clear and convincing single cause for the unusual crustacean mortality".

Some campaigners have raised concerns dredging for a new freeport on the Tees was linked to the die-off, but Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has strongly disputed the claims.