All across the west coast, starfish are dying in record numbers due to a mysterious ‘plague’ that liquifies their bodies. Marine biologists up and down the coast are seeing starfish dying off by the millions from this Wasting Syndrome. Sometimes as quickly as 24-48 hours, they will develop legions on their bodies causing their internal organs to spill out.

According to Drew Harvell, Cornell University Epidemiologist,

This is the largest outbreak that we know of ever in the oceans — in terms of numbers of species affected, the geographic scale, the mortality… This is what we call a wide host range pathogen… it affects many different species — the most dangerous in wildlife disease, in terms of a potential risk of extinction… I expect in the next 2 weeks, we’ll lose virtually all the stars at this site.”

Scientists are unsure about the causes of the wide-sweeping disease, which seems to be affecting all species of sea stars. There are hypotheses ranging from global warming, to ocean acidification, to natural causes, to concerns about nuclear waste from the Fukushima disaster.

This plague offers evidence that something is going wrong in the ecosystem of the Pacific, and as the starfish continue to die off in record numbers, the delicate balance of the ocean could be in jeopardy. According to the short film about the catastrophic losses of starfish, Fading Stars (which you can watch in full, above), as starfish die their natural prey will grow unchecked throughout the reefs and wreak havoc on the plant and animal balance of the ocean.

Is there anything humans can do to help stop this? Until scientists can figure out the cause of the plague, they are not sure. This may all be part of a natural cycle, or it may be caused by radiation poisoning. If the nuclear waste seeping into the Pacific at Fukushima is to blame, then today’s reports of radiation spikes following damage from typhoon VongFong are worrisome. According to these reports, radiation is rising near the ocean and officials say, we can’t do anything more to stop this.”

Unless something drastic can be done, biologists now fear that extinction of many species of starfish is a very real possibility. Says Taylor white, from the Sitka Sound Science center , “We’ve been telling people to take their children out to low tide to see the starfish before they’re not there anymore.”

Photo Credit: KTS9

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Kelly Neff is a social psychologist, author and educator who has helped thousands of people learn about health, relationships, love and sexuality. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown and M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. A professor of psychology since 2007, she has become an innovator in the field of online teaching with her book, Teaching Psychology Online. When she isn’t writing, teaching or doing healing work from her home in Boulder, CO, Dr. Neff travels the globe researching transformational festivals for her upcoming book for the Festival Research Project. She is currently a contributing author to The Mind Unleashed. You can find her daily doses of inspiration and positivity on Facebook and Twitter. Light and Love!