I never thought I’d be thrilled to see a few sea stars (starfish). But after nearly two years of bad news regarding sea star wasting syndrome (they literally melt into oblivion), there’s some good news.
First, scientists know the cause — it’s a virus. Knowing the source is a great start! But it’s a virus that’s been around for a while and has never before wreaked such havoc — killing sea stars all along the North American west coast. So, there are still a lot of questions that need answering: Why so deadly now? Are there contributing factors? How has this changed the shoreline community (sea stars are major predators)? Will the virus strike again in the same way, and if so, when?
The other good news is our sea stars are coming back. Along the Monterey Coast Guard Breakwater today, I saw at least a dozen individuals feeding on the mats of mussels that have thrived since the local stars disappeared. I’m so thrilled to see them back.