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What's Happening to Starfish, Why Are They Dying on Our Coast?

Starfish are mysteriously dying from a 'sea star wasting disease' and scientists aren't sure whom or what to blame.

 By Christa Bigue (Editor)

Marine scientists are puzzled by a recent phenomena. They say sea stars are under attack by an unknown wasting disease and are dying in large numbers off the nation’s eastern and western coasts.

In Half Moon Bay local biologist and birder Alvaro Jaramillo has noticed the demise, too. 

"I go crabbing locally here in Half Moon Bay with the kids, and we do not see starfish any more, we used to, on the pilings, on the rocks, sometimes in our traps ... they are gone," he said. "I do not see the classic Glaucous-winged Gull with half a sea star sticking out of the bill any longer. It is alarming to say the least, and I for one am worried."

All along the Pacific coast, sea stars are experiencing their largest known die-off, which is affecting more species of sea stars than any other attack in recent memory, according to a Washington Post article. A smaller and isolated Atlantic outbreak, at points off Rhode Island and Maine, has also been noted.

Scientists do know that wasting is happening on both coasts, but they don’t know if the two die-offs are linked. Some blame climate change or acidic waters or other warming-related issues, but at this point it's all just speculation.

The mystery surrounding the die-off was the subject of a recent NBC Nightly News investigation in Monterey Bay. Two species of starfish that used to thrive in the cove next to Monterey have completely disappeared, prompting scientists and experts in marine biology to take a closer look at the situation beneath the water's surface.

"It's happened so rapidly that some species are just missing," said marine biologist Pete Raimondi, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, (UCSC) Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in a recent Natural News article.

Raimondi explains in the Natural News article that at this point experts are investigating things like warmer water, lower oxygen levels and ocean acidification as potential causes of the strange illness, all of which could be legitimate culprits. 

He adds that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe remains mostly untouched by the scientists investigating the situation.

"I've had probably 100 emails thus far saying, 'What about Fukushima, because of radiation?' ... We haven't ruled that out yet but we're clearly not ruling that in," he said in the article.

Jaramillo questions the Fukushima theory: "I think it is disease or something else related to a shift in the water temperature, nutrients, local pollution. You could have immense amounts of radioactivity pouring into one part of the ocean, and that would have little effect elsewhere in the ocean. I think we need to look at water temperatures, disease ... "

The mysterious illness turns the starfish to "goo," according to the Washington Post article. The starfish's limbs are curling up at the tips, arms are detaching from dying bodies and ulcers are opening holes in tissue, allowing internal organs to ooze out.

"I am more clued in to the birds, but this was so obvious that an invertebrate illiterate like myself could still see that something was going on," said Jaramillo. "It is scary. Think of the AIDS epidemic, the Great Influenza, the Holocaust to put into perspective what is going on with our sea star populations ... All I know is that intense selection can be crippling to populations, but it selects for the tiny minority that can handle the stress. What are we missing, that we are not thinking about that is upsetting the Great Balance?"
Dromia Pleasant January 01, 2014 at 03:43 PM
Men ruined the earth garden, men are to blame, there is none else to blame but men, men are stupid, ignorant gluttonous self entertaining ever insatiable sensationalist seekers who are ignorant that they are destroying themselves and the earths garden and coheirs and cohabitants until they also are destroyed, it is great science to see that while men are so stupid, flies, bees, birds, so many creatures disappear and it causes the world despair, the final joy of any world will be the disappearance of man.
Dromia Pleasant January 01, 2014 at 03:46 PM
scientists who think caring about something is to mutilate it, prod it, dissect it, starve it, stick prongs and electrodes in it, give us a break, would we not love scientists as much. If science would have respected the starfish, glorified it as a coheir, respected its beautiful way and its being, its habitat, then maybe this would not happen, but you are hypocrites, destroying them in laboratories and seeking them out only to further destroy them, as so it is you do, may it be done to each of you.
Dromia Pleasant January 01, 2014 at 03:49 PM
men are stupid, creatures of the world communicate very clearly to men when they are put in peril by them, men ignore it, men are stupid, this global advertisement of the stupidity of men and their self publication of it is just exactly the kind of proof men will have to read over and over again, until they actually say, yes, we know, i know, then, having proved to each and every , one man that they were this stupid, to destroy creatures that were not theirs, that are borderless inhabitants on purpose, men, you are just too stupid, its surprising that you even noted this, what did you do after this lament, go fishing?

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