Southern California

Tuna Crabs Paint Beaches Red

Tuna crabs washing up on Southern California beaches were spotted in Balboa Island and Newport Beach.

Tuna crabs have turned shores red at Balboa Island and Newport Beach.

Pleuroncodes planipes are the tiny crabs currently covering many Southern California beaches, commonly called red crabs or tuna crabs because of their red-orange color.

Although they are native to Baja California, these crabs are known to travel north and onto Southern California beaches during warm currents and during El Niños, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

The Institution said they have seen the crabs washing onto San Diego beaches like La Jolla and Ocean Beach for about a month.

Donna Kalez, who works in Dana Point, said she was taking a walk with a friend when she first saw the red-striped sand at Strands Beach on Sunday.

"We really didn’t know what it was. It had washed on to the beach, it was like a full blanket," Kalez said.

Unfortunately, the tuna crabs washed ashore are dying or already dead.

Officials don’t recommend eating the crabs because they may be toxic, due to their diet as filter feeders.

Tuna crab appearances have happened before and have been spotted as far north as Monterey, according to Linsey Sala, collection manager for the Pelagic Invertebrates Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Kalez, who has lived in the area since 1971 said, "Periodically you’ll see red crabs wash up on the beach, but not like this."

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