By Michael Snyder, on October 28th, 2013
Divers were out in Puget Sound waters Saturday to see if they can help solve a mystery. Scientists are trying to figure out what’s causing one species of starfish to die in parts of Puget Sound and the waters off of Canada.
Seattle Aquarium biologists Jeff Christiansen and Joel Hollander suited up in scuba gear in their search for answers. “We’re going to look for both healthy and potentially diseased sea stars,” Christiansen explained. “We’ve got some sea stars that look like they’re melting on the bottom.”
The same thing is happening in the waters near Canada and nobody’s sure why.
“[The starfish] seem to waste away, ‘deflate’ a little, and then just … disintegrate. The arms just detach, and the central disc falls apart. It seems to happen rapidly, and not just dead animals undergoing decomposition, as I observed single arms clinging to the rock faces, tube feet still moving, with the skin split, gills flapping in the current. I’ve seen single animals in the past looking like this, and the first dive this morning I thought it might be crabbers chopping them up and tossing them off the rocks. Then we did our second dive in an area closed to fishing, and in absolutely amazing numbers. The bottom from about 20 to 50 feet [6 to 15 meters] was absolutely littered with arms, oral discs, tube feet, gonads and gills … it was kind of creepy.”
A Vancouver Aquarium researcher is sounding the alarm over “puzzling” changes he’s observed in the killer whale pods that live off the southern British Columbia coast.
Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard says he fears changes in the ocean environment are prompting odd behaviour and an unusually high mortality rate.
Barrett-Lennard says the southern resident orca pod, which is found in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland, has lost seven matriarchs over the past two years, and he’s noticed a lack of vocalizations from the normally chatty mammals.