Anyone who has explored tidal pools during the summer in the Pacific Northwest has enjoyed looking at starfish. Can we imagine these beautiful creatures not being a part of marine life anymore?
My communications group at Whatcom Community College is exploring the phenomenon called “sea star wasting.” We’ve been exploring the possible causes of sea star wasting and want to help solve the problem. Something is causing the West Coast’s sea stars to disintegrate and dissolve. Within a week or two, their bodies deflate, their arms curl and detach from the rocks they are clinging to. White sores appear, the arms fall off and eventually, the sea star dies. This wasting has effected many different species and has been found along the entire North American West Coast . It has reached epidemic levels.
Why should we care? It’s estimated that millions of sea stars have been destroyed.
Ben Miner, an associate profess or of biology at Western Washington University says that, “Sea stars are ravenous eaters of shellfish like mussels. If there is no predation of mussels, their populations will explode, crowding out other species and dropping biodiversity mussels can take over an ecosystem, and sea stars are the check-and-balance that prevents that.” We are very lucky to have Professor Miner doing research and trying to find answers to this perplexing problem.