ISLE OF PALMS, SC (WCBD) – If you’ve been to Lowcountry beaches this week, you may have noticed several starfish stranded and even dead along the beach. Experts say starfish becoming stranded is not uncommon.
Beachgoers say there could be hundreds, even thousands of dead starfish lining the beaches on the Isle of Palms. A sight that has left them concerned and asking what lead to the mass stranding.
Erin Weeks, the Media Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ (SCDNR) Marine Division, says the starfish stranded on beaches can happen during the winter months.
“When we get winter storms or storms other times during the year and it really turns up the surf, they’re kind of at the mercy of the wind and water action,” says Weeks.
Weeks says the storms that impacted the Lowcountry ahead of Christmas could be a contributing factor to the mass stranding.
“It’s hard to say, it can be high tides, it can onshore winds and offshore storms, it can be any number of factors that contribute to them washing ashore, also cold temperatures,” she says.
Weeks says there is generally one or two mass stranding of starfish a year, ranging from a couple dozen starfish all the way up to a couple thousand. She encourages people to throw the starfish back into the ocean, but in most cases, they will likely die.
“Most of the time, by the time folks encounter them on the beach they are already dried out and have died. But you can certainly throw them back in the water if they appear to be alive still.”Erin Weeks, Media Coordinator, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; Marine Division
Weeks says if you want to collect starfish from beaches, to make sure you are picking up a starfish and nothing else. Jellyfish and relatives of the jellyfish such as the Portuguese Man O War can also become stranded and cause a deadly sting.