Thousands of dead starfish have washed up on a beach in Lincolnshire

January 24, 2013 - UNITED KINGDOM - Thousands of dead starfish have washed up on a beach in Lincolnshire after a period of stormy weather.  Shocked photographer Simon Peck estimates that 4,000 starfish - along with whelks' eggs and pieces of shell - had surfaced on Cleethorpes beach.  Experts think that the animals were dislodged by rough waters in the recent wintry weather, with a similar incident happening at the same time last year.  Richard Harrington, communications manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said: 'These are all common starfish Asterias rubens. 

'The fact that there's what appear to be whelk eggs and different shells in these pictures, both shallow water residents, along with the common starfish, would back up the likelihood that it is simply stormy weather that has caused this big strand.  'We were aware of a strand like this in the region at this time last year, too.  'Mass strandings of starfish and sea potatoes, a kind of sand-dwelling sea urchin, happen quite regularly in different parts of the coast.  'They seem to occur most in winter, and around sandy areas, when it's likely that rough seas in shallow water dislodge them in large numbers. 
 'Strandings like this may be associated with breeding, indicated if all of the specimens that washed up are mature adults, but the common starfish tends to aggregate and spawn most in spring and summer - so that is unlikely.'  Millions of common starfish live in British seas. About the size of a hand, they are pinky orange when alive, but turn a bright orange when dry.  Their ideal feeding ground is a mussel bed, where millions of starfish will congregate at any one time. And it's here where they are most at risk.  Violent storms can send terrifically strong currents through the mussel beds where they are feeding, pluck them off their prey, carry them to the shore and dump thousands at a time on to a beach.  In the past, some mass strandings have been blamed on overfishing - with dredgers used to scrape the sea floor for mussels dislodging starfish or covering them with mud and sand. - Daily Mail.