Shellfish washed up on P.E.I. beach by 'ripper' of a storm

Thousands of lobsters, clams, quahogs and crabs have washed up on the shore at Robinsons Island in the P.E.I. National Park after last week's storm.

'We didn't expect to see the carnage'

Last week's storm threw shellfish up onto the beach at Robinsons Island in the P.E.I. National Park. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Thousands of clams, quahogs, lobsters and crabs have washed up on the shore at Robinsons Island in the P.E.I. National Park after last week's storm

Alex Clerk said he and his wife often come to walk on the beach, but they've never seen anything like what they witnessed Monday morning. 

"Unnecessarily dead, but I guess this is nature," Clerk said. "That storm was a ripper!

"We heard that the beach had lost a lot of its sand, but we didn't expect to see the carnage," Clerk said. "There's just so many of them! It's sad." 

Illegal to harvest

Robert MacMillan, a lobster biologist with P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said the event is a naturally-occurring phenomenon.

It is illegal to harvest lobsters that have been washed ashore as a result of a storm surge, a DFO spokesperson says. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"It sometimes happens in the fall and wintertime of year when we don't have any ice cover and we have large winds that produce large wave action," MacMillan said. 

The big waves can throw shellfish onto the beach where they become stranded or injured and die. 

'We didn't expect to see the carnage,' says Alex Clerk, right, walking on the beach. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

It is illegal to harvest lobsters that have been washed ashore as a result of a storm surge, a DFO spokesperson said in a written statement to CBC News. 

"Fishery officers conduct patrols and will advise the public against harvesting lobsters that have washed up on the shoreline," it said. Regulations stipulate removing any natural object from the National Park is prohibited and may be punishable by a minimum $175 fine.

'More susceptible'

Many of the beached lobsters were small — only about 15 centimetres long. 

'There is natural mortality through a variety of factors in the wild,' says provincial lobster biologist Robert MacMillan. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"There are a lot of small animals in the population and they tend to live a little closer to shore," MacMillan explained. "They're more susceptible to the large wave action."

It's not uncommon to hear of such events at least once a year, he said. 

The lobster population in P.E.I. waters is very healthy, MacMillan said, so the event is not a big concern for lobster stocks. 

More P.E.I. news

With files from Brittany Spencer

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