Eleven organisations make up panel

Eleven organisations make up panel

Thousands of dead crabs and lobsters have washed up along the North East coast since October 2021

Members of a panel set up to investigate shellfish die-offs come from 11 different organisations, the Environment Secretary has confirmed.

Their identities will remain private to “assess scientific evidence without pressure or influence”, she said.

Thérèse Coffey added people with “past involvement” or Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) members would not be included.

Campaigners have previously criticised a “lack of transparency”.

The North East and North Yorkshire fishing sector has said it was devastated by mass shellfish die-offs since October 2021.

The government has claimed algae was to blame, but a study by several universities said pyridine, possibly released by dredging, was more likely.

Therese Coffey

Therese Coffey said the panel would assess the evidence

In a letter to Whitby and Scarborough’s Conservative MP Sir Robert Goodwill, who is chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Ms Coffey confirmed the panel had been “stood up” by her chief scientific advisor, who consulted the government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.

She said it would “assess the evidence from all parties” to determine the most likely cause of the shellfish deaths.

The government previously said naturally-occurring algae was the most likely explanation, but many fishermen and campaigners believe the die-off was linked to toxic chemicals.

The panel will focus on “scientific evidence, including scientific data from key stakeholders”, the letter from Ms Coffey said.

Its report is expected to be completed later this month.

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