On the lack of climbing starfish

13 09 2014

Today was a near perfect day, weather-wise. Not too hot, clear sky, gentle breeze. The sort of day people get married on.

I went for a walk down to the White Rock pier. Years ago, I used to walk there almost daily. Now it’s a rare visit. I didn’t see a single person I knew. Very odd, given that I’ve lived in this town for almost exactly 13 years now. Gone are the days when I used to meet many people I knew, despite being a relative newcomer. The town has grown. Its demographics have changed a lot in that period. I feel like a tourist or transient visitor to the beach area now. The pier is always a special walk though. You cross the train track, which can trap you on the pier for several minutes if a freight train should happen to pass whilst you’re on the structure. But the end of the pier ends at a breakwater, built to shelter some boat moorings. It’s a great place for the kids to fish for bullheads or crabs, and brave/stupid pier-jumpers leap off in an effort to test the adhesion of their bathing attire.

The best bit though, is looking for the starfish. Pacific north-west starfish come in many hues of orange/red/purple. They’re fascinating to watch as they spread-eagle themselves and climb the wooden supports or the rocks of the breakwater. At low tide a few are totally exposed, but most find cool sun-hides under the rocks, or in the deep shade of the pier’s wooden members.

Here’s a photo from 2008 when I was privileged to go on a yacht with a friend to the local “Gulf Islands”. You see what I mean about the hues and splendour of their graceful forms?

Bundle!

Anyway, today there were none. Not one. Not even a boring grey/green one. Nothing. Pondering this lack of starfish, I realised I’d not seen any on my recent amazing trip to Haida Gwaii either. The sea in White Rock looked a little murkier than I remembered in previous years. A little more green and weedy. The sea at Haida Gwaii though was pristine. I doubted it was pollution causing the lack of starfish.

So then I walked back up the steep Oxford Street and checked the web. The web never lies, right? OK – so it does quite a lot really, so I made sure to check a reputable site… like the CBC. It seems there’s some mystery illness decimating starfish in the PNW. All the way from Alaska to Mexico. Whatever it is, it’s simply dissolving them: they turn to goo, and float off as fish food nibbles… Ebola for starfish!

CBC: Sea star wasting away

The whole story can be found on the CBC web site here.
Seems the scientists aren’t too concerned due the rapid rate of their breeding, but even so – it’s sad to not see one starfish climbing up, in all its glory.

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3 responses

14 09 2014
Justin

We just saw our first purple and pink Starfishes on a trip to Galliano island last weekend- so colourful compared to the sandy brown ones in Australia. There were quite a few down on the shore, so hopefully that’s a sign they’re not all disappearing!

14 09 2014
Quieter Elephant

Great news.
The CBC reported the decimation as being wide-spread, but not complete.

15 09 2014
lanceleuven

I’m surprised they’re not more concerned if the death rate is 95% and it affects so many different species. It sounds like a catatrophe. What a shame.

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