The Oregonian, Dec. 27, 2013: Starfish [...] are dying on the West Coast in big numbers, wasting away, losing arms and simply turning to mush [...] colonies of starfish quickly die and disintegrate into white goo. Deaths have been confirmed from Alaska to Southern California. [...] Pete Raimondi, chairman of UC Santa Cruz’s ecology and evolutionary biology department [...] doesn’t believe the die-off is connected to any toxins in Japanese tsunami debris or radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, but he said those sources haven’t been ruled out either.
Earthfiles, Dec. 20, 2013: Radioactivity [didn't] seem to be a problem from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan. The Washington State Health Department and other agencies tested West Coast fish and have so far not found elevated radiation levels. Further if Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 contamination was a factor, many other marine creatures would be dying, not only sea stars. [...]
More on the radiation ‘tests’ by the State of Washington:
- The Olympian, Nov. 24, 2013 (emphasis added): The [Washington] Health Department has test [sic] albacore tuna caught in the waters off the Pacific coast, one from before the Fukushima disaster and one caught after. In addition, the department has tested one salmon, one steelhead, as well as razor clams and other shellfish after the Fukushima disaster. [...]
The problem with extrapolating radioactive contamination of fish to sea stars:
- Oceanus Magazine, May 2, 2013: Marine invertebrates, such as bottom-dwelling starfish and sea urchins, are particularly proficient at absorbing a wide range of ingested radioisotopes [Fowler] said.
- Scott W. Fowler, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, Nov. 12, 2012 (at 8:00 in): Species dependent uptake of plutonium from sea water by various marine organisms [...] There’s a huge difference in what these types of organisms accumulate [...] Fish aren’t particularly sensitive to plutonium, you can see the concentration factor is extremely low [Starfish have a concentration factor ~1,000 times higher than fish].
“Other marine creatures would be dying, not only sea stars”:
- Heal the Bay: This year’s epidemic began in Washington in June; since then at least 12 different species of sea stars and even some purple sea urchins have been found as victims of the wasting disease. [...] [Sea stars are the] top predator from intertidal ecosystems [...]
- Metal and radionuclides bioaccumulation in marine organisms, October 2002: “Biomagnification” of metals and radionuclides in aquatic organisms refers to an increase in tissue concentration of a given element in higher [...] levels of a specific food chain.
- WAMC Radio, Dec. 4, 2013: “The absence or decline of a single species can alert us to a problem that deserves closer attention.”
Ian Hewson, Ph.D., Asst. Professor of Microbiology, Cornell University, Dec. 20, 2013: We’ve had a lot of questions about whether it is related to radiation from Fukushima. We can’t completely exclude that possibility, but at the same time when you examine sea stars on the Japanese side of the Pacific, they are not dying, as far as we know. And it’s very unlikely that is the source of the problem. [...] it’s probably something in the water. Something in the water could be either chemical, it could be combined chemical and biological [...] I’m very surprised when I hear about 100% death rates of any organism when you are talking about a disease. It is not in nature, for example, for a pathogen to wipe out your entire host population. [It] has to have something to survive in.
Published: December 28th, 2013 at 2:05 am ET