A sea star with wasting disease lies on Kachemak Bay’s shore in spring 2016. Wasting disease caused this star’s arm to disconnect from its body. Photo: Brenda Konar

By Lauren Frisch
5 May 2017

(UAF) – In one year, sea stars have almost disappeared from Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

This is likely the aftermath of a sea star wasting disease episode. The disease causes lesions, and may result in the loss of arms, making a sea star look as if it is melting or decomposing. Similar episodes have been spreading across the southern coast of Alaska and as far south as Baja California.

“In spring 2016 we counted 180 sea stars during our intertidal surveys, which was high in the books,” said Brenda Konar, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. “Just one year later, we counted only five sea stars.”

Konar and CFOS professor Katrin Iken are part of Gulf Watch Alaska, a monitoring program established by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council to better understand how intertidal and other marine ecosystems were affected by the 1989 oil spill. The intertidal zone is the area between high and low tide. Konar and Iken monitor Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula near Homer. […]

“The spread of the disease to Alaskan waters and its impact on sea star diversity may be related to the unprecedented warm waters that we experienced in the Gulf of Alaska in the past two years,” Iken said. [cf. Scientists link massive starfish die-off to warming ocean]


Wasting disease devastates Kachemak Bay sea star populations


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