In what is considered a rare sight, visitors of Monterey Bay Beaches witnessed millions of red crabs washed ashore. The phenomenon occurred due to waters becoming warmer due to El Nino.
While the sighting is a special one for beach goers, fishermen see reasons for concern. According to Monterey Fish Company’s Gaspar Catanzaro, while in the south, near the equator the presence of pelagic red crabs is a good omen for tuna fishermen, up north they are not a good sign.
According to climate experts, the crabs were washed ashore due to the warming waters. However, the warmer than usual waters was preventing the colder, nutrient filled water to go up to the surface. Moreover, the situation was damaging to fishermen who are fishing for squid. Reportedly, they must travel up north to find it and overall the conditions took their toll on the commercial squid season. However, fishermen hope squid will return to the Monterey Bay by mid-June.
According to marine biologists, the pelagic red crabs are native to the warm waters of the Gulf of California and Baja. With waters becoming warmer due to El Nino, they migrated up north. Red crabs usually travel in masses, drifting in a water column. However, the strong currents wash them ashore.
While some may be prompted to associate the occurrence with climate change, Andrew DeVogelaere, a researcher with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary explained that in this case nature was at work. Rather than being caused by human activity, the fact that the crabs washed up on the shores was a normal oceanic activity. However, the researcher warned, if the phenomenon will start repeating itself too often, that may be a symptom of climate change.
According to DeVogelaere, the first such event took place in 1959 and was followed by another one that occurred ten years later. Later, the crabs washed up also during the El Ninos of 1982 and 1983.
The phenomenon attracted many to the beaches covered in the red crustaceans. Their presence also has a different, more important role. They represent a valuable source of nutrition for birds, dolphins, birds as well as the whales that are found along the coastline. While red crabs are harmless, biologists say, they they are not suitable for human consumption.
Image source: Wikipedia