NEWPORT ( — Thousands of crustaceans have washed ashore with the tide at Balboa Island, and experts believe the warm ocean water may be responsible.

The rare pelagic red crabs, which have an anatomy similar to small lobsters and have large, black eyes, have washed up in the thousands in Orange County, creating a rather oceanic odor.

“Well, it’s a very unusual sight, I’ve not seen this before,” resident Ann Algeo said. “We have a sudden influx of red crabs, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived on the island for over 40 years.”

A king tide Saturday began producing the crustaceans on shore, where on Monday thousands remained. The majority of the red crabs were dead on the sand, creating a strong odor for residents.

“This is quite a mess to clean up, I think,” resident Regan Sherick-Odom said.

While the onshore arrival of the red crabs is rare, the same coastal area experienced a similar phenomena in January. Experts say the strange sightings, in unusually warm water, are suggestive of an El Niño condition.

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