Mystery as 'thousands' of starfish spotted washed up on north Wales coastline

Stormy seas, high tides and north-westerly winds have all been blamed for the starfish washed ashore. Credit: Daily Post Wales

Mysterious mass starfish strandings have been spotted along the north Wales coast in recent days, with speculation that it is linked to an unusual natural phenomenon.One man, who was out walking with his grandchildren, reported seeing “thousands” of starfish washed up in water pools and along the shoreline in Prestatyn, Denbighshire.

Many more have also been seen in neighbouring Rhyl.

Stormy seas, high tides and north-westerly winds have been blamed for the phenomenon.

Researchers are trying to establish if the apparent rise in starfish strandings is linked to climate change, while some suspect it may be linked to “starballing”, a behavioural response only discovered relatively recently.

The “starballing” phenomenon is thought to be a response to environmental changes such as rapid currents. Credit: Daily Post Wales

When starballing, creatures bloat up their bodies, retract their tentacles, and detach from the seabed.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said brisk north-westerly winds were blowing towards the North Wales coast over the weekend, when Prestatyn’s starfish were reported.

When combined with recent high spring tides, this was likely to have washed the starfish ashore, said the environmental body.Another factor may have been recent heavy rainfalls, swelling rivers as they disgorge into the sea. At the same time, stormy conditions at sea can disrupt deep-lying cold water.As starfish are intolerant of freshwater, it’s speculated that lower salinity levels might weaken them enough to be washed ashore.

'Thousands' of fish were said to have washed up on the shore Credit: Media Wales

Marine expert Gem Simmons, a member of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, shared her thoughts on Facebook about the strandings.

She said: "[This] tends to happen after strong onshore winds, big spring tides or stormy offshore weather with big currents. They get dislodged from their seabed habitat and carried towards shore - the fact that there's flatfish there indicates this."

She continued: "It's really sad - some will still be alive if they haven't been predated on. Hopefully those surviving will be washed out on the next few tides. Thankfully they reproduce quickly so it is unlikely to affect the population overall."

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