Thousands of dead crabs are washed up on our beaches and "What's killing them ? " is the headline on the front page of this weeks Thanet Extra. The answer is simple, it is the sudden cold snap.
Most of the crabs in the photograph on the front page of the Extra are Velvet swimmer crabs and cold weather is fatal. This because they originate from the warmer southern and southwest end of the English channel and they are only here by working their way around the coast in mild winters and hot summers breeding as they go. They are by nature a swimming crab and their back legs act as a paddle, because of this they cannot burrow effectively into the sand and mud to escape adverse weather. The shore crab as we know it is pictured with the swimmer crab and notice how pointed the back leg is. This enables the shore crab to burrow into the sand in cold weather.
Cold winter deaths of crabs is part of their life and death cycle and the main beneficiary of this has always been Cod. In years past shoals of Cod would have feasted on the crabs stunned by cold in the inshore waters. When I was a fisherman it was not uncommon to find over twenty dead crabs in the stomach of a gutted Cod. As we all know Cod is on the decline and the shoals in our inshore waters have decreased and all this free lunch is not being consumed. Instead it is being washed ashore.