Since August 2013….Alaska to Mexico

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Following is a message from The Marine Detective, Jackie Hildering.

“This is, if not the, certainly one of the biggest wildlife die-offs that have ever been recorded, and we’re not just talking marine die-offs.” This is a quote from Dr. Marty Haulena from the article below, reporting on a recent meeting of scientists concerning the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

The Marine Dectective, Jackie Hildering, has made the following observations concerning the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome from her station on Northeast Vancouver Island:

  • It has been raging since August 2013
  • Unprecedented in both range, duration and number of species impacted – 20 species of sea star species since 2013 from Alaska to Mexico (local variation in intensity of the Syndrome and which species are impacted the worst).
  • A virus has been found in the sick sea stars but this virus has been around for at least 72 years (was isolated in preserved sea stars). Thereby there is a stressor that is likely reducing the resistance of the sea stars to the virus. Increased temperature may be that stressor, but this has yet to be proven.
  • Sunflower stars are impacted the worst in this area. Leather stars may be more impacted than in many other areas. I have seen only 3 adult Sunflower stars in the last year. There have been two ‘waves’ of seeing babies and juveniles, but I have not noted them living to adulthood. The hypothesis that I find most plausible is that the babies are the result of adults spawning at depth, where it is colder (no stressor). Warmer water reduces the resistance of the babies and juveniles in shallower water whereby they may succumb to the Syndrome.
  • Why does it matter? Why update you? 1) Sea stars are often keystone species; with such extreme changes in their number, this has a knock on effect on the ecosystem. 2) In knowing how important citizen science is to understanding what is happening in different areas on our coast, hopefully more people will report their sea star observations (See Link Below). 3) But, ALSO, the Ocean often testifies to environmental problems first and the sea stars may be indicators. Were such a wide scale, persistent wildlife die-off happening above the surface, there would be so much more human concern, connection and attempts to change behaviours that may increase stressors.
  • Documenting what has been happening to the sea stars has been one of the most devastating things I have ever done. Albeit it has not been proven that warmer temperatures are the stressor, it is yet another huge motivator for me to do more to reduce my use of fossil fuels, thereby contributing less to climate change and ocean acidifications.
  • Becoming fearful and/or despondent most often leads to paralysis, which is pointless. It is so important to realize that the solutions to most environmental (and social) problems are the same – use less (fossil fuels, contaminants, disposables): care more; act with precaution re new technologies; realize how connected we are to change that this is not a martyr-like thing. The actions that are better for Sea stars, whales, etc. are better for us and often create savings.

Source of quote with reporting on the meeting of scientists: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sea-star-wasting-die-off-1.3414607

Where to relay Sea star data (and my summary of further information): http://themarinedetective.com/2013/11/10/wasted-what-is-happening-to-the-sea-stars-of-the-ne-pacific/

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