Weather concerns grow for marine wildlife

Sunday 7th April 2013

Prolonged easterly winds created new dunes after cpt Paul Howorth/NEIFCAcpt Paul Howorth/NEIFCA

A mass mortality of marine life has sparked cause for concern as impacts of the extended cold weather and gale force winds are recognised.

Dead crabs, lobster and mussels - equivalent to approximately 800,000 individuals - have been washed ashore, with significant numbers of cuttlefish bones, razorshells, starfish and increased numbers of porpoises also recorded.

Razorshells cpt Peter Roworth/NEIFCA

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Although it is normal to see some natural change in wildlife patterns, the current records are unusual and a cause for concern.  It is evident that the prolonged poor weather and strong winds have resulted in considerable disturbance within the North Sea and to its wildlife.

Across a 10 mile stretch from Barmston to Bridlington - along the Holderness Coast – an estimated 150,000 velvet swimming crabs, 10,500 edible crabs, 2,000 common lobsters and a staggering 635,000 mussels were recorded.  Cuttlefish bones have been recorded along the length of the East Coast, as well as increased numbers of dead Harbour Porpoises on Lincolnshire beaches.

These reports, noted by North Eastern Inshore Fisheries Authority, are made in addition to high seabird mortality reported over recent weeks.  From Aberdeen southwards down the East Coast, significant numbers of dead seabirds on beaches have been reported by members of the public.  Over 200 dead or dying puffins have been recorded on Yorkshire beaches alone between Scarborough and Withernsea.  Many more birds are likely to have perished at sea.  Known as the ‘Puffin Wreck’, this is the worst hit to the seabirds since the easterly storms of 1947.  It is estimated that 10% of the breeding Puffin population at Flamborough Headland has been lost.

Kirsten Smith, Living Seas Manager for the North Sea Wildlife Trusts, said:

“It is clear the weather has played a major part in these events.  Our major concern is what this now means for the future of our marine life.  What is worrying is that those seabirds washed ashore are emaciated with little body fat, indicating they have been exhausted or starved to death at a time when we would hope they are in good condition and ready for the start of the breeding season.”

Joan Edwards added:

“Flamborough Headland is a site of significant European importance for its marine wildlife, including its seabirds.  Events such as this highlight the pressures our wildlife faces and the need to safeguard areas for the future.”

Further Living Seas work being undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts in the North Sea is available at:
• @NorthSeaWT

Live cetaceans should be reported to British Divers Marine Life Rescue at and 01825 765546.  No attempt should be made by members of the public or touch or move these animals.

Tagged with: Living Seas