Washington

Tacoma aquarium loses half its sea starts to wasting disease

A veterinarian team gives  an antibiotic shot  to a purple sea star last July at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The shots were intended to help fight sea star wasting syndrome.
A veterinarian team gives an antibiotic shot to a purple sea star last July at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The shots were intended to help fight sea star wasting syndrome. Staff file

The disease responsible for the largest die-off of sea stars ever recorded has popped back up along the West Coast.

Last year, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium lost more than half of its 369 sea stars. Now, they number fewer than 100.

“We definitely saw a resurgence of wasting among our sea stars over the summer,” aquarist Melissa Bishop said. “That's consistent with what others have seen up and down the West Coast this year.”

An exact total of how many sea stars have showed signs of wasting at Point Defiance was not immediately available.

Point Defiance aquarists joined with about 85 collaborators to find a cause and solution to the disease, which basically deflates the sea star. First its legs curl up and contort, and then lesions appear. Eventually, the limbs tear off and the animal disintegrates.

The Tacoma aquarium continues to treat its affected sea stars with antibiotics, which proved effective last year.

Bishop is working with the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center on a survey of West Coast zoos and aquariums to gather information on how to prevent wasting syndrome.

She will present their findings at a national convention for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums in late September.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

stacia.glenn@thenewstribune.com

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