Nfld. & Labrador

Norris Point family finds dozens of dead lobsters on town beach

A high tide in Norris Point, N.L., pushed dozens of dead lobsters, conners and starfish onto the Deckers Cove beach last month.

'The waves were coming in, the lobsters were coming with it,' Josephine Chubbs says

Josephine Chubbs says there were about 100 dead lobsters on the beach outside her home in Norris Point, N.L., on Dec. 17. (Submitted by Josephine Chubbs)

Josephine Chubbs says she has never seen anything like the mess of lobster and crab that washed up on her beach in Norris Point, on Newfoundland's west coast, in December.

Chubbs and her husband found dozens of dead lobsters, crab, conners and starfish littering Deckers Cove beach, in Gros Morne National Park, on Dec. 17.

"This was like lobsters rolling," she told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show, comparing it to the annual spectacle of capelin washing ashore to spawn. "The waves were coming in, the lobsters were coming with it."

Chubbs says many of the lobsters were intact, and it was not clear why they died. (Submitted by Josephine Chubbs)

Chubbs said she lives just next to the water, and the lobsters were being pushed onto her property. She said her husband found one baby lobster, just a few inches big, while he was out blowing snow in the driveway.

When the pair went out to the beach, they saw dozens more. Chubbs said she was prepared to rush a few into a holding tank, but couldn't find even one that was alive.

"Everything was dead," she said. "First thing came to mind was 'This is not okay. This should not be happening.'"

Chubbs said her 88-year-old mother, who has lived in Rocky Harbour her entire life, had never seen anything like it.

Temperature shock?

Bob Hooper, a retired marine biologist who spent his career working in the surrounding area, said he's seen "several dozen" events of this kind.

"I've never seen such a concentration of dead lobsters at one time, but I've seen a lot of mass mortalities over the years," he told the Corner Brook Morning Show.

Hooper hasn't studied the Norris Point example, but figures it had something to do with recent storms on the west coast of Newfoundland.

The lobsters were found on Deckers Cove beach in Norris Point. (Submitted by Josephine Chubbs)

"In the fall the bay cools down a lot. It's usually pretty gradual, but if you have a really big storm while it's cooling you can get a very big temperature drop in shallow water in a very short time period," he said.

"So it could be temperature shock, and it could even be super-cooled water freezing them to death."

He said the deaths could be related to similar incidents late last year in Nova Scotia.

Thousands of herring washed ashore near Digby and in the Annapolis Basin in November and December, and on Boxing Day, several types of shellfish blanketed the beach in St. Mary's Bay.

While no cause was determined, fisheries specialists said it was likely related to the environment, rather than disease.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of retired biologist Bob Hooper.
    Jan 09, 2017 5:28 PM NT

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show