Thousands of Dead Starfish Wash Up on UK Shores After Extreme Weather

The UK’s North Sea coast has been swamped by dead sea creatures like starfishcrabs, mussels and lobsters. But what’s responsible for this mass die-off?

The Guardian reports:

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.

[...]

The casualties are mostly invertebrates though some fish were also found. 

Some outlets have also noted that seals were found among the dead.

As distressing as the incident may appear, die-offs aren’t infrequent. Each year, on beaches around the world, carcasses of sea creatures wash up, sometimes in large groups. However, this die-off is alarming because of just how many animals died and washed up together.

The sharp drop in sea temperatures last week seemed to prompt the mass die-off. Dubbed “The Beast from the East,“ this dramatic weather front caused an unusual burst of severe snowy weather to blanket much of the UK. This storm resulted in 25-foot snow drifts in some places, and it severely damaged infrastructure. The effects are still being felt as the snow thaws, with flooding and burst water-mains among the many problems.

The sudden drop in temperatures coupled with the unusual ferocity of gale force winds appears to have driven marine life on to UK beaches.

Bex Lynam of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the group that will be responsible for the clean-up operation on the Yorkshire coast, elaborates:

There was a three degree drop in sea temperature last week which will have caused animals to hunker down and reduce their activity levels. 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.

Climate change could make extreme weather more frequent

Extreme weather phenomena appears to be on the rise. In fact, while it’s too early to say if this weather front was a direct result of man-made climate change, some evidence suggests that it may have contributed.

The Arctic sea ice shelf has declined at its fastest rate in more than 1,500 years, with the region experiencing an alarming warming period throughout the later stages of 2017. This pattern, of course, doesn’t happen in isolation. In fact, some scientists have likened it to the planet’s “refrigerator door” being left open, with the cold “spilling out” throughout the northern hemisphere. And that’s why we’re seeing extreme cold weather events in places like the UK.

Regardless of whether this extreme weather was directly caused by climate change, it’s clear that this kind of weather phenomena will become more frequent if we don’t act now to stop global warming. Global temperature rise appears to push weather to the extremes, creating conditions for extreme cold snaps, drought, forest fires and heat wave conditions. And that’s not just speculation — it’s settled science.

Marine protected zones can help

Efforts to combat climate change will require serious work and strict adherence to the principles laid out under the Paris Agreement – and, even then, there will be more work to do.

But the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is quick to point out that we can control one major factor: marine habitat conservation. By creating more protected zones, we can reduce the overall pressure on marine species. Starfish in particular appear to be highly sensitive to global temperature change, and they may be dying as a result. Other pressures, like over-fishing and sea-bed raking are also taking a toll.

Marine protected zones won’t stop die-off events directly, but they could improve the overall health of marine habitats — and that’s a worthy goal. As the UK seeks to renegotiate laws and regulations as it leaves the European Union, this seems like an ideal time to reexamine the issue of marine conservation, especially in the face of such adverse weather.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

79 comments

Claire Jeffrey
Claire Jeffrey15 days ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a month ago

Yfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a month ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a month ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a month ago

Terrible : (

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda Mabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda Mabout a month ago

sad

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Arlene C
Arlene Cabout a month ago

Merci Steve

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Sheila Miller
Sheila Millerabout a month ago

People around the world must recognize climate change. We must protect our environment and the animals. Thank you for this article. It is so sad to know what is happening in nature.

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JinnySITEISSUES L
JinnySITEISSUES Labout a month ago

Proud of yourself self-serving humans? Start being kind to this earth thank you. Thanks for posting.

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