Long distance voyagers
The series of storms that hit us during February brought with them marine litter and animals from the Atlantic. Fishing equipment from North America included several octopus pots from the Gulf of Mexico and fishing buoys that have been traced back to a town in Nova Scotia.
Some of the litter has been encrusted with exotic species. Columbus crabs from the Sargasso Sea have been found alive, hiding amongst clusters of goose barnacles washed up at Kimmeridge and Chesil Beach. These crabs live at the ocean’s surface, on drifting organic and man-made material, such as rafts of seaweed, driftwood logs, fishing buoys and have even been found on turtles! It is extremely rare for them to be found in Britain.
Deeper water animals
The extremely rough seas have disturbed the seabed in deeper water than normal and have washed up some animals not usually seen on the seashore. A dead snake pipefish was found in a car park at Kimmeridge following a huge storm and a number of very fresh pink seafans were found on Chesil Beach. Other creatures ripped off the seabed and thrown up onto the shore have included dead mens fingers, sea squirts, dahlia sea anemones, a sea mouse and a variety of sponges.
Lots of sea cucumbers have also been found along the beach at Kimmeridge, some still alive. These animals, related to sea urchins and star fish, usually live in crevices in rocky reefs with just their feeding tentacles protruding into the water column. Their appearance in large numbers may indicate substantial disturbance to seabed sediments and boulders.
Large numbers of dead seabirds have been found on Dorset’s beaches, including guillemots, razorbills, puffins, kittiwakes, gannets and a skua. The Channel Islands and northern France have also had large numbers washing up and current estimates are that around 11,000 seabirds, including 8,000 puffins have died. It is possible that the continuous stormy weather has made it very difficult for them to feed leaving them de-hydrated and exhausted. Click here for the full story.
Along with the litter and dead seabirds have come reports of pollution on beaches. In December and January lumps of a hard, white, waxy substance which disintigrated into granules, coating seaweed on the strandline, were tested by the Environment Agency and found to be non-harmful. Then in mid-February lumps of a soft, white buttery substance with a strong, unpleasant aroma, washed up in Chesil Cove in large quantities.
While we wait for the results of analysis we would ask that people report any further incidences of unusual substances on beaches and take photos but keep dogs and children away and do not touch.
Keep up to date with marine events happening in Dorset by keeping an eye on our events page. New events are being added all the time.
Octopus pots from the Gulf of Mexico
Dead sea mouse