Is The Red Crab Invasion on the West Coast A Sign of Disaster?

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As Throngs of red tuna crabs washed ashore Southern California beaches this week, people were scratching their heads in disbelief. Some even thinking our oceans were in serious trouble.

The tiny one-to-three inch, crawfish-like creatures floated onto shore in hordes so deep that parts of the beach were completely covered. “It looked like a red carpet — a good foot-to-16 inches thick,” Johnny Fotsch said. “It kinda took me back a little because I never seen anything like this before.”

Scientists believe patches of warm water are drawing the crabs further north from their primary habitat near Baja California.

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“Typically such strandings of these species in large numbers are due to warm water intrusions,” Linsey Sala, collection manager for the Pelagic Invertebrates Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, said in a statement on the institution’s website.

The critters, which die once they’ve been beached unless the tide takes them back out, have been showing up along the San Diego coastline for the past several weeks and now are in Orange County, frightening beachgoers.

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Donna Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing, told the Orange County Register her boat captains had been seeing the critters in the ocean for a while and knew it was only a matter of time before they washed up onshore.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” she told the paper. “It’s a phenomenon you won’t see for a long time. It’s sad they’re going to die, but there’s nothing you can do.”

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