Love em or hate em, we’re used to seeing a rainbow array of starfish in our harbor and now they are ALL gone.
I just rowed out to the spit to confirm reports that a starfish wasting disease is rapidly wiping out the entire population of starfish in the coastal Pacific Northwest. This is a picture I took just inside the spit in late January when the harbor was teeming with starfish, nudibrancs and sea cucumbers – right about when the PBS report below was released. Today I didn’t see a single one .
This particular outbreak started on the Olympic Peninsula and rapidly spread up and down the coast.
Seems that higher water temps were responsible for this massive star-i-cide in past years on other coasts, and they eventually came back. But factors make scientists skeptical that they will recover anytime soon from this latest cull – if at all.
Disease-bearing shellfish may play a part in it, according to a U.C. Santa Barbara study reported on PBS. A tank of Starfish feeding on wild mussels got sick. The tank eating frozen squid did not.
How can you help? Researchers are interested in any observations or photos you may have.
Whatever the reason, I will miss these colorful creatures, even if they do eat our shellfish. In fact, after watching this flesh eating disease turn a sea star into goo, I’ve suddenly lost my appetite for Bouillabaise.