Environmental Protection

Wasting Disease Plagues West Coast Starfish

Various news agencies are reporting starfish along the West Coast are dying in droves from a “wasting disease,” which turns the fish to “goo.”

The Press Democrat reported the disease has killed up to 95 percent of starfish in some tide pool populations ranging from southeast Alaska to Santa Barbara. It additionally stated in September, starfish in a marine sanctuary center at the San Francisco Presidio turned sickly and perished in water pumped from the ocean, while the aquarium’s other occupants, including eels and anemones, remained well.

Stricken starfish develop white lesions that expand and sometimes turn ulcerous, then start losing arms and finally—all in a matter of days or weeks—disintegrate into what some observers have described as “goo.”

Science World Report also noted at least 10 species of star fish have been reported dead from the same disease, according to researchers from the U.C. Santa Cruz Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. According to Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at U.C. Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab, “They essentially melt in front of you, We’ve never seen it at this scale up and down the coast.”

The cause of the wasting disease is unknown to scientists. They have however noted that a similar outbreak occurred in 1983, yet the current outbreak appears to be progressively worse than past years.

To see the starfish wasting map online, please see www.eeb.ucsc.edu or click here.

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