By Aaron Guzman
In recent months there have been reports of alarming ocean life die-offs along the western coastlines of the United States and Canada. Most noteable are several species of starfish, including the sunflower star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, the morning star, Solaster dawsoni, and the Pisaster, Mediaster, Dermasterias, and Solaster genera.
Reports claim that the sea stars are “melting” before researchers very eyes, and the event is widespread. Pictures show fields of decimated, wasted bodies, lone detached legs, and afflicted stars boiling with white lesions.
Biologists studying and trying to explain the phenomenon have floated a variety of theories ranging from climate change and over-population to disease and salinity changes in the water. One of the forefront theories for the die-off is Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, an event characterized by rapid formations of lesions, followed by the fragmentation of the body and death. It is currently not understood if Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is strictly viral or bacterial.
- Read updates on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
- See a Map of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Outbreaks
- File your own report/sighting of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
Starfish aren’t the only animal with dwindling numbers, however. Federal fisheries managers have reduced projections for West Coast sardine harvests by two-thirds, and Canadian fleets are reeling in empty sardine nets. According to the Canadian National Post, the sardine commercial fishery has “inexplicably and completely collapsed this year.”
Pacific herring are also suffering tribulations in Canadian waters. Scientists report that herring are dying off in mass numbers and samples collected showed the fish to be hemorrhaging from their eyes, fins and bellies. It is now believed that Salmon populations may be threatened.
While there are many possible explanations for these die-offs on the table, the one explanation that is curiously absent in the mainstream media is the possibility of contamination from the Fukishima meltdown in 2011, combined in ongoing radioactive runoff into the pacific. To this day there are ongoing leaks, and severe weather and earthquakes are adding to the crippled power plant’s problems.
Only time, an informed public, and a vocal unbiased media can hope to bring enough light to these problems and draw potential connections to these die-offs and other world events.
Arnold, Carrie. Massive Starfish Die-Off Baffles Scientists. National Geographic Wierd & Wild. 9 September 2o13.
Associated Press. Widespread Starfish Deaths Reported on West Coast. ABC7 News. San Francisco, California. 3 November 2013.
CBS Local Media. Scientists Stumped By West Coast Sardine, Starfish Die-Off. CBS Los Angeles. 4 November 2013.
ChrisM. Mysterious Mass Sunflower Starfish (Pycnopodia) Die-off in British Columbia. The Enchinoblog. 3 September 2013.
ChrisM. Why We Should be Concerned About a Mass Starfish Die-Off and/or Disease! The Enchinoblog. 14 October 2013.
ENENews. Biologist: Pacific herring in Canada bleeding from eyeballs, faces, fins, tails — I’ve never seen fish looking this bad — All 100 examined were bloody — Officials informed of hemorrhaging soon after 3/11 — Gov’t ignoring problem. Energy News. 19 August 2013.
Hume, Mark. Disease killing Pacific herring threatens salmon, scientist warns. The Globe and Mail. 13 August 2013.
McClelland, Siobhan. BC starfish dying off in huge numbers. Canadian Geographic. 15 September 2013.
Mui, Michael. Bleeding herring discovery alarms B.C. marine biologist. 24 Hours Vancouver. 11 August 2013.
Pynn, Larry. B.C. sardine fishery collapse leaves ‘a hole in the marketplace,’ repercussions up the food chain to humpback whales. National Post. 15 October 2013.
Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring: Trends and Synthesis. University of California Santa Cruz Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Web. Accessed 7 November 2013.
Video Source: Jonathan Martin via Global BC