Monday, July 28, 2014

Citizens Document Decline of Sea Stars in Whatcom County

                By Wendy Steffensen

The numbers are in. The common purple (and sometime orange) sea star has declined by 85-92% in two plots in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve within 2 months, and is no longer so "common".  This rapid decline mirrors that which has been found throughout the region and up and down the coast.  Read more here:

When the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee heard about sea star wasting syndrome and the associated monitoring program, by MARINe, the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network, they wanted to know more and get trained. The Committee hosted Melissa Miner of MARINe to conduct classroom and field trainings and adopted two sites to monitor sea stars and wasting syndrome in the Reserve. 

Observing sea stars on May 17, 2014 at Cherry Point
Luckily the Committee surveyed in May, before sea star wasting syndrome really took hold in our area. In June, anecdotal reports started coming in that stars were being wiped out; the group decided to go back out and survey at the next low tide in July. The anecdotal evidence was startling, and the hard numbers backed up what beach-goers have been witnessing. Our sea stars are being assaulted by a serious disease. 

Same location on July 14, 2014 

The Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee is comprised of volunteers committed to protecting the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve through education, scientific surveys, and assessment of projects that may negatively impact the Reserve. Members of the committee were glad to assist in collecting data that will be useful to scientists, but sorely grieved to witness the death of so many sea stars. The Committee will work to host additional trainings and monitoring events, in addition to their ongoing activities. 

To learn more about the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve and Citizen Stewardship Committee, contact Wendy Steffensen at  Read more about this project here.  New members wanted!

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