Freezing weather drives mass die-off of sea creatures

mass die-off sea creature
                     Image © Bex Lynham/Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Massive numbers of starfish, crab, mussels and lobsters have been washed up on the North Sea coast of the UK, following the recent freezing weather and storms.

Tens of thousands of creatures are piled up ankle-deep in places along the Holderness coast in Yorkshire and similar mass mortality has been reported in Kent and Norfolk.

“There was a 3C drop in sea temperature last week which will have caused animals to hunker down and reduce their activity levels,” said Bex Lynam, from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. “This makes them vulnerable to rough seas – they became dislodged by large waves and washed ashore when the rough weather kicked in.”

The casualties are mostly invertebrates though some fish were also found. “Larger animals such as dolphins are more mobile and can save themselves by swimming away when this sort of thing happens,” said Lynam.

All the organisms piled up on the shores were dead, except some of the lobsters. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s team worked alongside local fishermen to rescue the surviving lobsters, collecting them in buckets and taking them to tanks in Bridlington. The aim is to put them back in the sea when the weather improves.

Lynam said: “This area is very important for shellfish and we work alongside fishermen to promote sustainable fisheries and protect reproductive stocks. It’s worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and continue to breed.”

Large numbers of dead animals were also found at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Holme Dunes reserve near Hunstanton. Local warden Gary Hibberd said he had seen crabs, squat lobsters, starfish, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, sun stars and whelks.

Dr Lissa Batey, senior living seas officer at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We can’t prevent natural disasters like this”.

“But we can mitigate against declining marine life and the problems that humans cause by creating enough protected areas at sea and by ensuring that these sites are large enough and close enough to offer fish, crustaceans, dolphins and other marine life the protection they require to withstand natural events such as this.”

Holderness inshore waters are already designated as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and the government is due to announce a consultation into more MCZs this year.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

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