CBS: This is really disturbing, sea stars dying by the millions on West Coast — Like the Black Death, only faster and deadlier — ‘Mystery plague’ affecting 20+ species — TV: Disappears from Orange County coast over 2 week period — Expert: “Largest epidemic ever in ocean… Something has changed in marine environment to lead to this” (VIDEO)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
By Paul Martin
July 29th, 2014

CBS L.A., June 17, 2014: A mystery plague is killing starfish across the West Coast […] scientists are scrambling for answers. Here at Crystal Cove, scientists reportedly found about 200 starfish just in this area. This month, that number is down to one. […] a mysterious disease is eating unprecedented numbers of starfish alive. Amanda Bird, marine restoration coordinator with Orange County’s Coastkeeper: “Within the span of about 2 weeks, they were there, then not there.” […] In the last 6 months, she has seen starfish in Orange County all but disappear. Bird: “I saw evidence of wasting disease… and then there were no sea stars.” […] The disease has wiped out whole populations of sea stars in Orange County. >> Watch broadcast here

Siuslaw News, July 15, 2014: “Last December, [Oregon] had less than 1 percent of sea star wasting. By May 1, more than 5 percent of sea stars were affected. Now, I would say, in some areas, it is up to 90 percent […] If you go down to the beaches, what you are not seeing is sea stars. In April and May, we were seeing a lot of the disease. Starting in June, we were just not seeing the sea stars” -Fawn Custer, CoastWatch

Yale U. (E360), July 17, 2014: “No signs of wasting,” [Ben Miner, Western Washington Univ. biologist] says. “Yet.” […] a few miles from here, almost all of the sea stars are gone […] “This is the largest epidemic we have ever experienced in the ocean,” says Drew Harvell, a marine epidemiologist at Cornell University [and] might hint at larger, more troubling questions about the overall health of oceans […] “Something has changed in the marine environment to lead to this unprecedented scale of an outbreak.” [Peter Raimondi of UC Santa Cruz says,] “during warm water events, I would not be at all surprised to see it move between species.” […] A couple of weeks after I was with [Miner], he returned to the site we had visited to find telltale white lesions […] Soon after that, all the sea stars were dead.

Islands’ Sounder, July 19, 2014: For one researcher, it is clear – [sea star wasting is] not as drastic as reported [Lab director Russel Barsh] concluded that 7 percent were unmistakably diseased. In the last five months he had observed that about 1-2 percent indicated illness. […] After this story went to press Russel Barsh released the following information: More Indian Island seastars were stricken by wasting syndrome in mid-July as hot weather continued. A systematic survey of hundreds of Ochre stars in the inter-tidal zone found that the proportion of “sick” animals had risen to 49 percent […]

Chinook Observer, July 1, 2014: [There’s] an enormous and mysterious crisis on the West Coast, perhaps indicating more worrisome changes for ocean ecosystems […] this die-off is sweeping through the region, killing millions of starfish over the course of a few days or weeks […] An analogy can be made with the Black Death that killed millions of people […] except that for sea stars this disease is even faster and more deadly. […] Anything killing one type of creature has the potential of becoming a threat to us all.

CBS San Francisco, July 28, 2014 — Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, veterinarian: “This is really disturbing. In recent months, starfish… have been dying by the millions up and down the Pacific Coast. Over 20 species have been affected and it has caused great, catastrophic mortality… If they disappear, they’re worried that it’s going to cause serious ecological consequences… once they fall, we’re not sure what else will crumble.” >> Full broadcast here

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