An investigation into why piles of dead crabs and lobsters are washing up on beaches at Teesside and County Durham is "being treated as the highest priority," the Government has said.
Large numbers of sea creatures, mainly crustaceans, have been seen on the sands around South Gare, Redcar and Marske and further north towards Seaton Carew over the past few weeks. They've also been seen in smaller numbers at Seaham and Seaburn.
TeessideLive reports that DEFRA, the government department for environment, food and rural affairs, has said its labs are currently investigating.
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Samples from the shorelines around Teesside have been taken and are being logged and processed with the first results expected next week.
People living in Marske described the beach scene on Monday as the worst they had ever seen with piles of dead and decaying creatures - as well as live ones - mixed with seaweed reaching waist high in some places.
Some residents spent hours trying to return live creatures they found amongst the piles back into the water.
The issue was raised by Redcar MP Jacob Young in the House of Commons on Monday night as an Environment Agency and DEFRA probe got underway to discover the cause.
On Wednesday, October 27, a DEFRA spokesman confirmed the investigation is being treated as the highest priority.
"This is the highest priority investigation for our labs at the moment," said the spokesman.
"We expect to receive results back next week."
No official theories have, as yet, been given for the cause.
The beach between Redcar, Marske and Saltburn is a popular stretch for dog walkers and, as yet, there has been no official guidance issued over pet safety issues.
"There is no answer to that whilst we wait for the results," added the DEFRA spokesman. "We would urge caution for people walking their dogs in the area."
Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland councils are waiting for more information from the investigation to establish whether they need to take any further action.
Samples of water, sediment, mussel and crab have been collected, the Environment Agency has confirmed, and have been sent to labs to consider whether a pollution incident could have contributed to the deaths of the animals. It has also shared samples with Cefas labs for disease analysis.
Cefas - the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science - is part of DEFRA.
A Cefas spokesman said: "At this time there is no information we are aware of to explain the deaths but will await the outcome of the investigations, which are still ongoing."
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