Thousands of starfish killed by stormy weather wash up on Wales beach

Thousands of starfish killed by stormy weather wash up on Wales beach

01/04/2022

Thousands of starfish killed by extreme weather are washed up on a beach in Wales after storms at sea

  • Thousands of starfish have washed up on a beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales
  • Residents left horrified amid concern ‘something has seriously gone wrong’
  • Marine Conservation Society says extreme weather is the likely cause
  • Incidents in UK not uncommon due to storms displacing starfish from sea floor

Thousands of starfish killed by extreme weather have washed up on a beach in Wales following storms at sea. 

Beach-walkers were left horrified at the sight of large piles of the stranded sea creatures after they were tossed ashore onto rocks and sand.

The Marine Conservation Society has said extreme weather is the likely cause of the starfish washing up on Coppet Hall Beach in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, on Tuesday.

And despite concerns of witnesses that something had ‘seriously gone wrong’, a spokesperson for the Natural History Museum added that the incident was ‘not a cause for huge concern’ as the starfish population ‘regenerates itself quickly’.

The mass stranding of thousands of common starfish is not uncommon in the UK, while other species have been reported to become stranded on the east coast of North America.

Thousands of sea creatures blanketed a beach in Ramsgate, Kent, in March 2018, shortly after hundreds more were washed ashore in East Yorkshire.

Andrew Cabrinovic, the Natural History Museum’s curator of echinoderms, has previously said the cause of the starfish washing ashore is water currents becoming stronger due to stormy weather.

Starfish live on the soft and sandy parts of the sea floor or on rocky reefs, and so can be easily picked up by strong currents and waves. 

Thousands of dead starfish which have washed up on Coppet Hall beach in Saundersfoot, west Wales

Stormy weather has been cited as the reason why starfish are washed ashore onto beaches in the UK

Campaigners have previously blamed seismic surveys of the sea floor for the deaths of whales and other marine life as these noises can harm the animals either by causing temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat or disruption of mating

What causes starfish to be washed ashore? 

The mass stranding of thousands of common starfish are not uncommon in England and Wales, while other species have been reported to become stranded on the east coast of North America. 

Andrew Cabrinovic, the Natural History Museum’s curator of echinoderms, has previously said the cause of the starfish deaths is water currents becoming stronger due to stormy weather.

Starfish live on the soft and sandy parts of the sea floor, but can be easily picked up by strong currents and waves.

He said heavy storms cause deep water to move and affect offshore starfish populations, while changing tides, high winds and sea swell can also affect how many become stranded.

Starfish are also sensitive to cold temperatures and any changes to water salinity, which can be caused by periods of heavy rain. 

He said heavy storms cause deep water to move and affect offshore starfish populations, while changing tides, high winds and sea swell can also affect how many become stranded. 

Starfish are also sensitive to cold temperatures and any changes to water salinity, which can be caused by periods of heavy rain.

Storm Arwen, for example, caused thousands of starfish to wash up on a beach in Culbin Sands, Inverness, in November last year. 

The strong winds and large waves caused by Storm Emma in 2018 also led to hundreds of starfish and shellfish being left dead on miles of beaches.

However, the sight of thousands of dead starfish was still a stark sight for local residents. 

Passer-by Giles Davies said: ‘I have never seen something like this before.

‘It’s really sad to just see that in nature, because you’re looking at deaths in the thousands of one species. It’s the sheer volume – you’re always going to get winter tides where stuff will come ashore.

‘For that volume to come ashore, no, something seriously has gone wrong with nature.’

A spokesperson for the Natural History Museum, though, added: ‘We regularly see mass strandings of seabed-dwelling animals after storms, usually in winter, sometimes several times in a year.’

Dr Chris Mah, a starfish researcher from the Smithsonian Institution in the USA, said: ‘In almost every instance that this has been reported, there have been reports of either storms or high winds.

‘Bear in mind that storms don’t just mean high winds and rough water current. It also means fresh water input.’

Investigations were launched in October after the continual washing ashore of thousands of crabs and lobsters on beaches along the North East of England – in scenes which local residents are calling the ‘worst’ they have ever seen. 

The Environment Agency confirmed samples had been taken from the sea creatures, water and sediment for laboratory analysis after the dead and alive animals began appearing on the sand along the Teesside coast between Marske and Saltburn, North Yorkshire, in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, and further north at Seaham.

It is understood that lab analysis will test the water for pollution while also analysing the dead marine life for parasites and disease.   

Scientists have previously blamed seismic surveys, which involve blasting the sea floor with airguns and measuring the echoes in an effort to search for offshore oil and gas reserves, for the deaths of whales and other marine life. 

The blasts, which are loud enough to penetrate through the ocean for miles, can affect sea creatures, such as whales, turtles and dolphins, and can lead to the abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings, and even death. 

Are seismic tests to blame for the deaths of thousands of crabs and lobsters in the North East?

Scientists have previously blamed seismic surveys of the sea floor for the deaths of whales and other marine life.

The noises these tests make are so loud they penetrate through the ocean and miles into the seafloor, then bounce back, bringing information to the surface about the location of buried oil and gas deposits.

Campaigners say in some cases they are known to occur on a recurring basis, sometimes going off every ten seconds, for 24 hours a day, often for weeks on end.

These noises can harm whales, dolphins and fish, either by causing temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings, and even death. 

Wind turbines are currently being planted in the sea not far from the mouth of the Tees in the North East of England, and ships have been carrying out these seismic tests recently.

However, most experts think this is unlikely to be to blame for the deaths of thousands of crabs and lobsters in the North East.

‘It’s the first I have heard of this theory,’ said Alex Ford, professor at the Institute of marine science at the University of Portsmouth.

‘There is a lot of testing in Newcastle and along the North Sea and noise is also created during pile driving but I am not aware of any study before that would link this to mass death. 

‘Whilst seismic testing is known to impact the behaviour and physiology (e.g. hearing) of whales and dolphins due to their sensitive hearing and we know invertebrates are sensitive to noise, I’m not aware of any seismic testing resulting in just large numbers of dead crustaceans being washed up on the shore.’ 

However, he said it was still possible this could be the cause, adding that he would be ‘intrigued’ if it was.

The Marine Management Organisation — an arm of the Government — has not said whether seismic testing could be the cause of the deaths.

Nor has the Environment Agency, but it is carrying out tests to see whether pollution has led to so many crustaceans washing up dead.

Greenpeace told MailOnline that it wasn’t aware of crustacean die-off, or any marine life die-off, from offshore wind farm construction

Source: Read Full Article