Sea Star Wasting Disease Not Affecting Oregon Coast, Not Too Likely
(Oregon Coast) - A nasty little disease called Sea Star Wasting Disease has attacked populations of the attractive creatures in some major ways in California British Columbia and parts of the northern Washington coast. It has wildlife officials on the Oregon coast a bit worried, but luckily there have been no reports in this state.
Some areas in those states and Canada have actually had the entire population depleted, and it is not the first time this disease has hit those areas. There were some similar incidents in the 70's, 80's and 90's, and they seem to occur in El Nino years when the waters were warmer.
While Oregon coast wildlife officials are keeping on the lookout for this disease, there is strong evidence it may not attack starfish on these beaches. Steve Rumrill, Shellfish Program Leader with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said this disease may be dependent on more still, calmer waters that just don't happen on the Oregon coast.
In California, Rumrill said there are more quiet water areas there, and the ocean is warmer.
Up north, in the Juan de Fuca Strait and British Columbia, there are also different habitats than here.
“It's happening to seastars more in deeper waters which are more still,” Rumrill said.
There are some different species getting the disease than what are found on the Oregon coast, which is another factor.
“It is more of a difference in habitat,” Rumrill said. “Here we have rougher seas and waves, and things are getting churned up constantly. Not like those quiet or warmer waters.”
The disease starts with a small sore on the body of the starfish, one which soon gets infected and causes the body tissue to decay. This form bacteria of causes the starfish to become a pile of mush in just a few days.
Still, ODFW has been keeping an eye on starfish populations around the coast, and Rumrill admitted some habitats in a few areas are a little more similar to those states flanking Oregon that are encountering the disease.
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