Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sea Star Wasting Disease: A West Coast Epidemic

Over the past couple of years, I have heard lots of talk about the Sea Star Wasting Disease that is affecting sea stars all along the western coast of North America. Some areas have lost 90% of their ochre sea star populations, and other types of sea stars have seen losses as well. The disease causes the sea stars to get lesions, lose limbs, and die... and often the whole process happens within just a few days. Scientists are not exactly sure what is causing this wasting disease. They know it is a virus, but aren't sure what has made it explode it recent years. The speculation is that it is a virus that has been present all along but warming oceans are stressing the sea stars and making them more succeptible.
Sea stars are a keystone species in the Pacific, playing an important role of predation. They eat mussels that would otherwise blanket the rocks and change the dynamics of the ecosystem.
We went tide pooling in Bandon, Oregon last week over spring break. It was my first time tidepooling in Oregon, and I was nervous that with the wasting disease, we may not even see any sea stars. But when we got there we saw a whole bunch, and I was happy.... I even started to think that maybe this wasting disease was not as big of a deal as I thought.... And then I did a web search for tidepools in Bandon and looked at images from a few years ago.... and the sea stars are everywhere! On top of one another, covering the rocks, everywhere. And that made the "lots" of seas stars we saw seem so inconsequential. And, of course, that made me sad.
Even the sea stars at the Hatfield Marine Center in Newport (who live in tanks inside) had contracted the disease and had to be given antibiotics in order to survive. Apparently the disease can be spread from starfish to starfish through human hands. Yikes.
Anyways, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we see a recovery soon. I can't imagine if my children have to grow up in a world without seas stars. I know that with a changing and warming planet, losses in species will be inevitable, but seeing the reality of it really hits home. Pin It Now!


  1. I hadn't heard about this, and it too makes me sad. I hope they figure it out soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I haven't heard about this either, it is so sad. Ugh, fingers crossed for a solution.