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BPA Letter to The Times on articles about dredging

The BPA has today written to The Times to respond to two articles (here and here) that contain inaccuracies and blame dredging for a mass die-off event of crustaceans in 2021 despite a joint-agency investigative report ruling out dredging as a possible cause.


Sir,

The reason the Government and others have been dismissive of capital dredging as a cause of mass die-offs in the North Sea is that this event occurred before dredging for the freeport started1. The only dredging that was carried out before the event is routine maintenance dredging, which has been happening six days a week for many decades without incident, moving sediments that have been recently washed into the estuary by the river and tides.

There are other basic inaccuracies in your columns: not all marine life has been affected, only shellfish that dwell on the seafloor. The results of the research you quote suggest that the quantity of pyridine needed to have that impact would require five years’ worth of maintenance dredging in a single day, and even then the qualities of the substance – it is highly soluble and buoyant – mean it is unlikely to have killed species on the seabed. There is plenty of other evidence, too. This is the reason that Government scientists in arms-length bodies (who are unable to respond to your attacks) have ruled out dredging, because there is no credible evidence that it has anything to do with this event. Dredging and disposal of dredged material is tightly regulated in line with strict international standards. It is a considerable expense and not undertaken except to ensure that channels are safe for the vessels that keep us fed and supplied with energy are able to dock safely.

We sympathise with fishing communities that have been affected – our association represents almost every fishing port in the UK – but continuing to push false narratives around dredging is irresponsible and will not move us closer to understanding the real causes of this event.