Wasting Disease Strikes Starfish At Popular Oregon Tidal Pool

Oct 3, 2014

A wasting disease has nearly wiped out all the starfish at Haystack Rock--a popular visitors’ destination on the Oregon Coast.

 Haystack Rock Awareness Program Coordinator Samantha Ferber says roughly 90 percent of the starfish, which are also called sea stars - in the lower intertidal areas have perished.

A starfish showing signs of wasting disease.
Credit Jonathan Martin / Flickr

Ferber says visitors to the tide pools have noticed the sea stars’ absence.

"Many people ask  “where are all the sea stars?” and a lot of them think, “Oh is it a seasonal thing? Am I here at the wrong time of the year?” And we explain to them what has happened."
 
The wasting disease has struck starfish on the West Coast from Alaska to California. It causes lesions that deform the sea stars and eventually causes them to disintegrate into a white mush.

Despite the huge loss of starfish at Haystack rock, Ferber says the juveniles remain healthy, so she’s hopeful the population could still recover in the future.

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