‘Red tide’ of seaweed washes up on Norfolk beaches

A large wash-up of seaweed has created a red tide along some of Norfolk’s most popular holiday beaches.

The thick matted layer - which gives off an unpleasant smell as it rots and attracts insects - confronted beachgoers at the weekend making some parts of the shore off-limits to bathers.

At Winterton there was a particularly thick mat on the tideline on Sunday.

Dr Ben Garrod, Professor of Evolutionary Biology from the University of East Anglia, said there was likely a whole host of reasons for the accumulation.

He said: “Large stretches of coastline can periodically become covered in different species of seaweed across different parts of the year.

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“There are a whole host of reasons for these wash-ups, including large storms out to sea, effects of pollution, and even just seasonal changes in weather.

“Lots of these red species are typically found out on shallow reefs within the North Sea, and attached to piers and other submerged structures.

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“It’s most likely that this seaweed wash-up resulted from a storm out to sea or even just the result of some strong currents and tides offshore.

“Every couple of years, we seem to get a large amount of this colourful yet pungent marine algae washing up on our Norfolk shores.”

Kieran Copland curator Hunstanton and Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centres, said good weather over the summer could have helped the seaweed to flourish.

He said the massing was likely the result of some rough weather dislodging the seaweed from the seabed, adding: “With the nice summer we’ve had and good weather that will have helped it grow well.”

Mr Garrod added the seaweed was an important part of the ecosystem and that it could be gathered up and used as fertiliser or biofuel.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said an increased volume of seaweed being washed up was normally due to the weather conditions out to sea.

It added: “At present, no environmental services action is required, however we will continue to monitor the situation and review if necessary.”

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