Mass Starfish Die-Off in West Vancouver Puzzling Researchers

Written by on October 9, 2013 in Invertebrates, Marine Life

Daily Summary

Airlines Might Just Hold the Secret to Ending Dolphin Captures at the Cove
Here’s an interesting thought: if no one was willing to fly captured dolphins to their future amusement park homes, would the annual slaughter at the Cove continue? David Kirby says “probably not.” Many international activists believe that air transportation is the weakest link in the chain and now, many air-cargo carriers are joining a “green list” of airlines that refuse to fly wild-caught cetaceans. Read the whole post to learn how activists are working to “make the skies dolphin safe.”

Manta rays lacking libido in empty blue seas around the Maldives
Once thriving, manta rays are now threatened by hunters who can make a lot of money in the Chinese traditional medicine market. Manta rays are protected in the Maldives so they are more stable than most other populations, but not for long. In 2009, reproduction just stopped. For the last four years, researchers haven’t seen any pregnant females when usually about a third of them are pregnant every year. Researchers are now looking into potential causes for this problem. They’ve noticed a correlation between the lack of reproduction and less productive monsoons. Weaker winds don’t stir up the sea as much, meaning the nutrients necessary for plankton blooms aren’t happening, which is affecting the entire food chain.

Sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides.

Sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides. Photo credit: brewbooks via photopin cc.

Vancouver Aquarium ‘alarmed’ at mass die-off of starfish on ocean floor
Last month, a diver told Vancouver Aquarium staff that he had seen an unusual amount of dead and decaying sunflower sea stars at a popular dive spot off the shore of West Vancouver. Within weeks, the sea stars had almost all disintegrated and disappeared in Howe Sound and Vancouver Harbour. Aquarium officials don’t know how widespread this epidemic, now called the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, has been, but sunflower sea stars weren’t the only starfish affected. Similar die-offs have been reported in Florida and California, but it’s too soon to say whether they are all caused by the same thing.

And here’s a bonus one because we all love a happy ending: Whale celebrates the freedom of its friend cut free from lobster nets with incredible leap by hero fishermen’s boat.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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