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Mystery of thousands of fish washed up on beaches in Brittany

Authorities say the phenomenon is natural but a marine life NGO suspects fishing ‘sea waste’

A close-up photo of sardine fish in a pile

Thousands of sardines and mackerel have washed up on the shores of Brittany, with the exact reason still unclear Pic: enciktat / Shutterstock

Thousands of fish have been found washed up on beaches in Finistère, Brittany, prompting marine activists and NGO Sea Shepherd to lodge a formal complaint on “suspicion of sea waste”.

However, local authorities have so far said that they suspect the phenomenon to be natural, caused by strong wind or waves.

The bay of Douarnenez was particularly affected as were the beaches of Pentrez, Lestrevet, Saint-Nic, and Plomodiern. Several hundred kilos of sardines and mackerel were found washed up on the sand. Jellyfish were also caught in the mix.

The gendarmerie and customs divisions have opened an inquiry and the Parc natural marin d’Iroise has also been asked to investigate and pass comment. 

Another hypothesis is that the fish have come from a boat accident, where a fishing boat (accidentally or not) dropped its cargo into the ocean. Sea Shepherd believes this is most likely the case, prompting its complaint.

However, maritime authorities have said that early inquiries suggest that the issue is due to a “natural phenomenon linked to the strong winds of the past few days”, especially “given the freshness and quality of the fish, which have almost no damage”.

Specialists say that the phenomenon can occur when shoals of fish are chased by predators near the coast and are swept up by strong waves that eventually dump them onto the sand.

People on the beaches are strongly advised not to pick the fish up but simply to wait until the waves eventually wash them back out to sea.

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