Mass death of marine animals after 'beast from the east'

Thousands of crabs, starfish, mussels and lobsters have washed up along the UK east coast following the big freeze and stormy weather, wildlife experts said.

Tens of thousands of the marine animals are lying, ankle-deep in places, along the Holderness coast in Yorkshire, while similar scenes have been reported along the coast including in Norfolk and Kent.

Most of the animals on the Yorkshire coast are dead, except for lobsters which Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have been working with local fishermen to rescue, the charity said.

Live lobsters were gathered in buckets to be released back into the sea (Bex Lynham, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust/PA)
Live lobsters were gathered in buckets to be released back into the sea (Bex Lynam, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust/PA)

Lobsters that were still alive were gathered in buckets and taken to tanks in Bridlington for care, before being put back into the sea as the weather improves.

The "beast from the east" led to a 3C drop in sea temperatures last week, causing sea animals to hunker down and reduce their activity level, according to Bex Lynam, North Sea marine advocacy officer at 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.

"Larger animals such as dolphins are more mobile and can save themselves by swimming away when this sort of thing happens," she said.

"Lobsters are one of the few species still alive - that's why we're saving them with local fishermen.

"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."

The Wildlife Trusts' senior living seas officer Dr Lissa Batey said it was not possible to prevent natural disasters such as the die-off as a result of the cold.

But she said: "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."

Marine life washed up on the Holderness Coast - an estimated 25,000 lobsters were transported to merchants tanks at Bridlington and released at sea this morning in deeper water. #beastfromtheeast#marinewashuppic.twitter.com/wasUeS2XxH

-- Yorks Wildlife Trust (@YorksWildlife) March 5, 2018

The Holderness Inshore area is already designated as a marine conservation zone, and the Government is due to announce a consultation into more such protected areas this year.

Only 50 of 127 originally recommended sites around England have so far been designated, which wildlife campaigners say is not enough to form a sufficient "blue belt" of protected areas in the seas.

The Government has also been warned it must do more to manage protected areas in the UK's seas to ensure they are not just "paper parks".

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