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Orange County beaches blanketed by thousands of tuna crabs

While many may perish, experts say the majority will be swept back in the water.

By Brooks Hays

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif., June 15 (UPI) -- The tuna crab sounds like it might be one of the most delicious animals in the sea. But the thousands of odd-looking crustaceans that washed ashore in Orange County, California, are unlikely to end up in a pot.

The orange blanket of small, squirming sea creatures is more a mess (and a cause for confusion) than a cause for a boil. Local chefs say they don't have much meat (though cooks in Louisiana might have some ideas).

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"All along the beach was orange," Newport Beach resident Patricia Hale told local TV station ABC7. "There was just an orange line in the sand."

The tuna crab invasion was reported in San Diego last week, and began cropping up farther up the coast over the weekend. But on Sunday, June 14, the tiny crabs arrived en masse on the beaches of Orange County.

"They are all still alive. They are in the surfline and swimming up," local Donna Kalez told the Orange County Register. "Once they get this close to shore, they can't go anywhere, so they just wash in. They aren't strong enough to swim out."

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Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Sportfishing, said beachgoers should savor the oddity.

"I think it's kind of cool," she said. "It's a phenomenon you won't see for a long time. It's sad they're going to die, but there's nothing you can do."

While many may indeed perish, experts say the majority will be swept back in the water, where they can hopefully swim backwards (like a squid) towards the ocean.

Scientists think the tuna crabs (Pleuroncodes planipes), which are species of squat lobsters that typically stick to waters of Baja California, arrived north with an El Nino-driven influx of warm water. The last large El Nino was in 1997.

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