HUNDREDS of small fish have been washed up on the beach at West Bay.

It is believed that the fish were chased into shallow water and onto the shore by a shoal of mackerel and lifeguards say the natural phenomenon happens around the same time every year.

Tourists at the resort were shocked to see the fish appearing to beach themselves and several people, including children, have been trying to rescue the doomed fish.

Many people along the shore could be seen scooping the fish into buckets filled with sea water or putting the fish back into the sea in an attempt to save them.

Hundreds of spratscould also be seen gathering by the harbour wall to try and escape the mackerel.

Holidaymaker Justine Underwood, who is visiting West Bay from the Midlands, was attempting to help the fish back into the sea with her family.

She arrived on the beach at 10.30am this morning, August 19, and said the fish have been washing up all day.

She added: “The water has been washing onto the beach and we could see small fish flapping about and still alive, so we’ve been trying to help put them back into the sea.

“Looking further into the sea it seems the mackerel have been chasing the smaller fish towards the shore.

“To be honest I thought this was fairly normal but lots of people have been quite shocked to see all the fish.”

John Rogers from Yorkshire, who is also staying in West Bay for the week on holiday, said he wasn’t surprised to see the fish washed up, adding that ‘the same thing happens in Cornwall quite often’.

He described the phenomenon as ‘simply nature’.

RNLI lifeguard supervisor for West Dorset, Kester Sheppard, said the same thing happens ‘year on year’ in Bridport and many fishermen visit during this time aiming to catch some mackerel.

He added: “Of course, if fishermen are fishing between the hours of 10am and 6pm we will be there to keep them safe.

“This process, where the mackerel chase the whitebait towards the shore, is indeed just nature.

“The mackerel force the whitebait towards the beach because it makes the whitebait easier to catch.”

Bridport harbourmaster James Radcliffe said the phenomenon was regular and natural, adding that recently water near the harbour could be seen ‘bubbling’ with shoals of mackerel.

'A natural phenomenon'

A Dorset Wildlife Trust spokesperson identified the fish as whitebait – probably ‘sprats’.

The spokesperson added: “This is a natural phenomenon which happens as a result of fish being chased by shoals of mackerel.

“Often dolphins follow mackerel, so that’s good news for more dolphin sightings this year.”