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Pacific Ocean

Why Are Thousands Of Starfish Dying?

OPB | Feb. 3, 2014 12:30 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 4, 2014 9:58 a.m.

EarthFix/Katie Cambell

Starfish — also known as “sea stars” — are dying at alarming rates all along the west coast, and no one knows why.

Scientists first started tracking the problem last summer when they noticed sea stars were dying by the thousands off the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Since then, similar reports have come in from Alaska, Oregon and California. The mysterious disease that affects these iconic sea creatures has been dubbed “sea star wasting syndrome,” because of the way is literally tears them apart. 

Though many of us associate starfish with childhood visits to coastal tide pools, these seemingly gentle animals are actually predators. They eat all kinds of other species from crab and mussels to ling cod eggs. Scientists worry that a lack of starfish could lead to a lack of biological diversity in the parts of the ocean they normally inhabit.

EarthFix reporter Katie Campbell will join us to discuss her investigation into the starfish die-off.



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