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Hundreds of Thousands of Mussels Found Baked to Death on New Zealand Beach

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Hundreds of thousands of green-lipped mussels (like those pictured) were found dead on a New Zealand beach. DianesPhotographicDesigns / iStock / Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of mussels that cooked to death off the New Zealand coast are likely casualties of the climate crisis.


Resident Brandon Ferguson first drew attention to the deaths in a video posted on Facebook Feb. 9.

"THERES NO MORE MUSSELS AT THE BLUFF!! THEY'RE ALL DEAD THE WHOLE F*CKEN LOT," he wrote in shock.

Ferguson shot the video from Maunganui Bluff Beach on New Zealand's North Island, Business Insider reported. Ferguson said he discovered the green-lipped mussels while visiting the area with friends and family. The group had planned to gather mussels to eat when the tide went out, but instead found more than half a million of them already dead.

"It smelled like dead rotting seafood," Ferguson told Business Insider. "Some of the mussels were empty, some of them were dead ... Some were just floating around in the tide."

Ferguson speculated that the mussels died because of rising ocean temperatures and said he had witnessed similar die-offs of other shellfish in the area due to a combination of low tides and high water temperatures.

Marine scientist Andrew Jeffs of the University of Auckland largely supported Ferguson's hypothesis.

"The mussels die of heat stress. You imagine lying in the midday sun every day for four hours for the best part of a week. You'd be pretty sunburnt at the end of that," he told the New Zealand Herald, as the International Business Times reported.

A New Zealand government report found that sea-surface temperatures in the country had risen between 0.1 and 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1981. The report noted that rising temperatures might force some species to move.

"If they are unable to move, they may not be able to survive," the report warned.

Jeffs further cautioned that mussels and other mollusks could be among the species to disappear from New Zealand entirely as oceans warm.

The problem isn't unique to New Zealand, however. A heat wave in June of 2019 had a similar effect on the mussels of Bodega Bay, California, causing the largest die-off in the area in 15 years.

"These events are definitely becoming more frequent, and more severe," University of British Columbia biologist Christopher Harley told The Guardian at the time.

Ferguson said he posted the video in part because he wanted to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on marine life.

"It's getting worse and worse every year," he told Business Insider. "At times like this we should wake up and start respecting these places and pay attention to what is happening before we lose our 'taonga' [a Māori word meaning 'treasure'] for good."

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