The Columbus Crab found in the UK. *Photo courtesy of www.aphotomarine.com
The Columbus Crab found in the UK. *Photo courtesy of www.aphotomarine.com

The story of five Sargassum crabs being swept from Bermuda to the south coast of England may have attracted international headlines this week.

But local conservation experts say the quintet’s voyage is not entirely uncommon.

The Daily Mirror reported how the five crabs washed up on a Dorset beach after clinging to debris as they were swept across the Atlantic.

A spokesperson for Conservation Services told the Bermuda Sun: “The arrival of Sargassum crabs in south west England is a rare occurrence but not uncommon. 

“The intensity of the recent series of winter storms there, which originate from North America, seem to have pushed mats of Sargassum and associated flotsam northward into the Gulf Stream and then rapidly across the Atlantic.

“The warm waters of the Gulf Stream would have sustained the crabs on their journey. “Another reason that they may have survived a rapid trip “across the pond” this winter is that fewer predators, such as seabirds, may have had the opportunity to hunt for them in the long periods of stormy weather.”

The five tiny ‘Bermuda’ crabs were picked up by conservationist Steve Trewhella on Chesil Beach near Weymouth.

And the crustaceans are now in the aquarium of his Wareham home.

The Conservation Services spokesperson added: “The Gulf Stream is a mighty climate engine within the Atlantic and a welcome buffer for us in Bermuda from the cold temperatures of air masses leaving North America.

“But it is not an infallible barrier, we frequently find algae and saltmarsh plant debris from the US eastern shores stranding on our beaches, floating material pushed across the Gulf Stream by storms.

“The Gulf Stream is one of four major inter-connected current systems in the North Atlantic that form the North Atlantic Gyre and define the boundaries of the Sargasso Sea.

“These currents are constantly picking up and dropping off plants, animals and unfortunately waste material, all around the Atlantic.

“These incidents of oddly displaced animals clearly show how connected our ocean is.”