New Yorker, Apr 21, 2015 (emphasis added): [A]n ongoing outbreak of a sea-star wasting disease… has killed millions of starfish… It’s the greatest wildlife mass-mortality event, or “die-off,” of the present day… Online, speculation about the cause of the die-off soon focussed [sic] on radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant… [Pete Raimondi, principal investigator with a research group studying the disease] recalled a phone call in which a fearful soon-to-be father asked whether he should immediately move his family away from the West Coast. It was one of many similarly heartfelt calls. Researchers have found no evidence of a link between the ongoing Fukushima disaster and the starfish die-off,.. Many members of the public remain unconvinced… sea stars are known to be maritime canaries-in-the-coal-mine: “They’re always the first ones to go,” Raimondi said.
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Apr 6, 2015: [A] mysterious disease has melted millions of sea stars… This current epidemic has wiped out at least 20 different species of starfish, Raimondi said.
Dr. Ben Miner, Western Washington Univ., Jan 22, 2015 (35:45 in): “The numbers of stars that have died are probably — reasonable estimates of hundreds of millions. I think at this point most scientists are pretty comfortable saying that it’s the largest mass mortality ever associated with a disease ever recorded. [It's] quite frightening… Patterns we initially saw and subsequent to that — and some other data — strongly suggests that it has nothing to do with Fukushima, though that was something that was very commonly reported in the media.”
Was ‘the media’ responsible for suggesting a possible link to Fukushima contamination as Dr. Miner claims? Or was it the sea star wasting researchers?
- CTV News: The vanishing sea creatures have caused concern among marine experts… [They're] studying the potential impact of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
- Discovery News: A wasting disease that’s attacking starfish… could be at least in part caused by nuclear pollution from [Fukushima] said a marine ecologist involved with studying sick starfish. Peter Raimondi [told News 1130 in Vancouver] that nuclear pollution carried across the ocean… can’t be ruled out as a factor. “One of the byproducts is obviously nuclear radiation discharge…” he told the news outlet.
- Dr. Ian Hewson, Cornell Univ. (.mp3): “We’ve had a lot of questions about whether it is related to radiation from Fukushima. We can’t completely exclude that possibility, but… sea stars on the Japanese side of the Pacific, they’re not dying*, as far as we know.”
- The Herald: “It’s extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact cause,” said Ben Miner… [One] theory is that the condition is caused by radiation [from] Fukushima… If that were true, many more creatures would be affected**, researchers said.“It’s unlikely to be the direct cause,” Miner said.
* See report from Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies (2014): “We conducted field surveys at intertidal zones of 43 sites… The number of species of intertidal biota seemed to get smaller as the site was close to 1F [Fukushima Daiichi]. No rock shell specimens were collected at 8 sites of Fukushima… specimens were collected at many sites in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, where enormous Tsunami attacked, it is unlikely that smaller number of intertidal species… were caused by Tsunami. Contaminated cooling water… may have given any impacts to intertidal biota.” [Sea stars are "the foundation of intertidal life" -Source]
** Many other instances of mass die-offs and disease have occurred along North America’s Pacific coast since 2011 — for example: whales, orcas, dolphins, sea lions, seals, polar bears, walruses, sea birds, owls, pelicans, turtles, crabs, sea urchins, oysters, scallops, abalone, sardines, anchovies, salmon, herring, jellyfish, sea salps, coral, krill, plankton and more.
Published: April 22nd, 2015 at 10:34 am ET