Imagine a population of millions of people at any given spot in the world suddenly dying with no explanation. The marine world equivalent of this is actually happening right now with the mass death of millions of sea stars – star fish – along the Pacific coast of the United States.
Marine biologists are calling it the “Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.” The widespread disappearance of sea stars is alarming to many. Sea stars are considered crucial predators in the ocean’s food chain and ecosystem. The U.S. government has provided “rapid response” research funding to determine why this is happening. However, research funding remains short of the capital necessary for an investigation of this magnitude.
Each year, millions of tourists visit the Monterey Peninsula in northern California and the coastal community of Santa Cruz, where some say they come to “be one” with the Pacific Ocean. However, starting last October they began observing that strangely missing from the coastline was a prominent and important member of the tidal community, sea stars.
Dr. Pete Raimondi says one of the remarkable things about this particular event is that it is probably the most well documented marine disease that they have ever had. In large part it’s due to the collaboration between regular scientists and citizens scientists. However, despite this knowledge, the cause of this disease – which entails the sea stars literally disintegrating – remains a mystery.
Americas Now correspondent Mike Kirsch spends time with one team of marine biologists exploring parts of the West Coast and dives into the dilemma of the disappearing sea stars.