Laguna Beach Independent, May 10, 2015 (emphasis added): Tide Pool Life Diminishes… an eerie new phenomenon, urchin balding, is attacking purple-spined sea urchins in Orange County tide pools, and local scientists are investigating this new mystery… tide pool conditions have worsened over the last year, said Jayson Smith, a Cal Poly Pomona marine biologist… Where once abalone, lobster and sea stars thrived, now sea hares, octopus, small fish, limpets and mussels seem to be leaving the scene, said Smith. The latest debacle leaves urchins with bald spots, where algae takes root, said Jennifer Burnaford, biology professor at Cal State Fullerton… Scientists have yet to understand the urchin-balding syndrome, said Smith… “Things are looking pretty poor right now,” he commented. Educators… report seeing fewer urchins at some tide pools and more empty shells. The once-prolific California blue mussels are also becoming increasingly sparse… “We appear to have more than just the sea-star wasting,” [Louise Thornton, chair of Laguna Ocean Foundation] said. “We appear to have something else going on. There’s something going on because the fish are disappearing.”
KUOW, Jun 16, 2015: Starfish Are Still Disappearing From Washington State… it’s unclear why the disease is hitting so hard… Sea star wasting syndrome is a gruesome disease and it spread to starfish all along the West Coast. Scientists still don’t know a lot about it.
KUOW, Jun 16, 2015 — Host: “Campbell says… the creatures continue to die.” Katie Campbell, KCTS reporter: “Scientists are telling me there’s just not that many left… When they are seeing some stars coming back, they’re just not seeing them grow to adulthood yet.” Host: “Wow, you mean they’re dying before they even hit maturity?” Campbell: “Yes… It’s very strange because this virus was in the water for decades. They found this virus in sea star samples that go back to the 1940s. So what sparked this virus that was seemingly benign to transform into this perpetrator of what’s considered the largest marine disease outbreak ever recorded?” Host: “Do they know?” Campbell: “No, they really don’t.”
KION, Jun 18, 2015: Baby starfish vulnerable to wasting disease – UC Santa Cruz researchers said… baby sea stars may be more prone to the disease. (Monica Moritsch, USCS Ph. D. candidate): “Right now, we have seen another spring pulse of baby sea stars showing up, and we don’t know if they’re going to survive the summer.” Researchers say unfortunately there’s nothing they can do to help those baby starfish.
CBC News, Apr 17, 2015: Researchers… suggests a virus is behind the die-off. However, although pathogen related death is natural, the magnitude of this epidemic is not. Experts have ‘no idea’ what to expect next… Harvell said the worst part is the uncertainty over the remaining numbers.
Dr. Drew Harvell, Cornell University, Apr 17, 2015: “In the places that we counted, we saw about 90-95% disappearance… The news is not good, we have lost a lot… We have no idea what’s going to happen next, I wish we did… We’ve heard reports from southeast Alaska that there is a fair amount of mortality occurring there now. There is a possibility that a third wave of this epidemic could be hitting there this spring.”
Alaska Dispatch News, May 12, 2015: Kachemak Bay sea stars found stricken with wasting disease… Brenda Konar, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks [said] creatures were stricken by the disease that is bringing lesions, disintegration and, ultimately, death. “They look like they’re falling apart. They’re melting,” Konar said… Konar and UAF’s Katrin Iken found disembodied sea star arms in tide pools, she said… the new epidemic is the largest and most geographically widespread on record… But what was striking about last week’s discovery was the number of affected sea stars — multiple animals rather than isolated individuals — and the oceanic location, Konar said. “These guys were in a totally oceanic environment where there are no salinity issues and no sediment,” she said.
KTVA, May 13, 2015: Wasting disease found in Southcentral Alaska sea stars – Sea stars in Kachemak Bay showed symptoms of a wasting disease, in numbers not seen before in Alaska… “Many scientists thought the disease was not going to come here because our waters are too cold,” Konar said. “This is definitely cause for concern.”
Published: June 25th, 2015 at 4:29 pm ET