Experts: Disease explosion in West Coast sea stars — “Extinction event” is pretty close — “Epidemic of historic magnitude… threatens to decimate entire population” of species in Oregon — Sudden 50-fold increase in recent weeks — Entire ecosystem could be disrupted — “We have no clue” (VIDEO)

Published: June 11th, 2014 at 8:13 pm ET
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North Shore News, May 23, 2014: Mysterious disease is now attacking purple starfish in B.C. [...] “We thought it had stopped,” said Jessica Schultz [of the Vancouver Aquarium.] — More from Schultz: “Certainly possible things will get worse [...] it seems to be coming back in different species [but] I’m not expecting to see an extinction.”

Port Townsend Leader, June 4, 2014 (emphasis added): “This event is greater than we’ve ever seen [...] There’s a good chance we’ll see it take off, more than we have already, up and down the coast this summer [...] I don’t think anybody is considering extinction at this point [...] it will be interesting to see what happens over this next year [...] there could be local extinction” -Melissa Miner, UC Santa Cruz

Times Standard, June 7, 2014: [Wasting disease] was observed in June 2013 in about 20 percent of the Humboldt County [California] sea star population, but appears to have grown significantly worse since then. “We’re seeing upwards of an 80 percent decline,” said Jana Hennessy, a graduate student in [the] marine ecology lab at Humboldt State University [...] “there has been a significant decline in the past year, most notably within the last five or six months [...] A year ago we were counting 160 stars, and a week ago we counted 20, so it’s been pretty devastating [...] half of [the 20] had obvious signs of the syndrome… I think we’re pretty close at this point to an extinction event.” [...] a marine ecologist with California Sea Grant Extension [reported] similar figures from other researchers along the coast. [...] Bacteria, viruses, toxins and pollution have all been suggested as possible culprits [...]

Times Colonist, June 9, 2014: Purple ochre sea stars are facing extinction in Oregon [...] says a report from Oregon State University [as] sea star wasting syndrome has exploded in the past two weeks [...] threatening the state’s entire population of purple ochre sea stars.

Oregon St. University, June 4, 2014:  Sea star disease epidemic surges in Oregon, local extinctions expected — Just in the past two weeks, the incidence of sea star wasting syndrome has exploded along the Oregon Coast and created an epidemic of historic magnitude, one that threatens to decimate the entire population of purple ochre sea stars. [...]  its loss could disrupt the entire marine intertidal ecosystem. [...] the sudden increase in Oregon has been extraordinary. [...] less than 1 percent of the ochre sea stars in Oregon were affected in April, and only slightly more than that by mid-May. Today, [it's] an estimated 30-50 percent [with some areas at] 60 percent [...] Researchers project that the epidemic will intensify and, at some sites, nearly 100 percent of the ochre sea stars could die. “This is an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Menge [...] Professor of Marine Biology [...] “We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before [...] We have no clue what’s causing this epidemic, how severe the damage might be [...] It’s very serious.” [...] [Prior] outbreaks were associated with warm-water conditions [but] the water temperatures in Oregon “are only at the high end of a normal range,” Menge said.

Watch KVAL’s news segment ‘What’s killing Oregon starfish?’

Published: June 11th, 2014 at 8:13 pm ET
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