Thousands of dead crabs wash ashore

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 16:42:24-04

A ten-mile stretch of Mustang Island has been turned into a dead zone. Thousands of dead blue crabs and other marine life have washed ashore.

That stretch of Mustang Island runs from Access Road 2, north to the Port  Aransas jetties.

Experts say this is not the first time the beach has been covered in crab carcasses, but it is a fairly rare situation. They believe the scene is the result of a change of conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Jim and Sandy Atkinson love to wander the beach in search of seashells, but now their search is hampered by all the dead crabs. 

"We came across a whole bunch of dead crabs, and we started wandering further down the beach, and there was more dead crabs!" Jim Atkinson said. 

The thousands of blue crab carcasses are raising a lot of questions. 

"Is it environmental? Is it a natural occurrence, or is it due to pollution? Or is it due to Harvey?" Sandy Atkinson said. 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department got the first reports of dead crabs on the Padre National Seashore on July 1st. More reports came in from the Port Aransas jetties on July 5th, and in the last couple of days the crab carcasses were spotted at Mustang Island State Park.

Texas Parks and Wildlife believe this wash up was caused by something called an upwelling event. That is when rain or wind causes deep, cool water to come to the surface.

"What we think happened was a lot of these carcasses went down to the bottom of the ocean, and this upwelling event pushed up a lot of the shell material onto the beaches," Alex Nunez, Regional Response Coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said.

They believe most crabs died or shed their shells in the water, then got pushed to shore by the upwelling.

However experts at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute think that recent heavy rains pushed organic matter into the Gulf, and that created a lack of oxygen in the water, which created something like a dead zone. They think that killed the crabs. 

Either way, it is not a typical scene at the beach. 

"I know it’s not normal in the middle of summer time for crabs, dead crabs, thousands of dead crabs to be washing up," Jim Atkinson said. 

These experts do not think this will have a long-term impact on the blue crab population. They also do not think there is a health risk for humans.