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Tens of Thousands of Dead Sea Creatures Just Washed Up on UK Beaches

In scenes described as being “like Armageddon” by one volunteer, tens of thousands of dead sea creatures have been washed up along Britain’s North Sea coastlines. 

Photos of the beaches show dead starfish, crabs, mussels, and lobsters as far as the eye can see, along the Holderness coast in Yorkshire, and also in Kent and Norfolk.

And, according to marine campaign groups, it’s all because of the freezing, stormy weather. 

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The Marine Conservation Society said on its website that the cause “appears to be a combination of the extreme cold (where shallow water has frozen, or come close to freezing) and the depth at which storm waves have penetrated.” 

“Most animals become slow moving, even torpid, when cold, so would have little opportunity to escape tempestuous waves,” it added. 

Almost all of the animals were already dead, but volunteers flocked to the site to save those that they could. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust worked with fishermen to rescue the surviving animals — mostly lobsters — taking them in buckets to tanks in Bridlington, according to the Guardian. The aim is to get them back in the sea when the bad weather comes to an end. 

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

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

Volunteers also found anemones, sea cucumbers, sun stars, and whelks among the animals, and some fish as well. 

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

One wildlife enthusiast, Lara Maiklem, told Sky News the scene was “like Armageddon,” saying there were “hundreds of thousands” of creatures.

Read more: England Has Its First Pod of Resident Bottlenose Dolphins

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.” 

While inshore waters in Holderness are already a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), campaigners would like more water to be done to protect the marine wildlife in the area. 

Of 127 sites proposed by an £8 million government consultation in 2011, only 50 have so far been designated as MCZs, according to the Guardian. The 50 sites, along with other protected areas, now cover around 20% of all English waters — about 8,000 square miles.

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Consultations into more MCZs are expected to be announced by the government later this year.

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