Sea star disease growing in Oregon

By Triplicate Staff June 06, 2014 06:05 pm

A mysterious disease that causes sea stars to disintegrate is exploding on the Oregon Coast.

Oregon State University marine ecologist Kristen Milligan said Wednesday that Oregon was largely spared last year as the disease known as sea star wasting syndrome spread in California, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

But monitoring of tide pools along much of the coast shows the number of sea stars affected has jumped from just 1 percent in April to as high as 50 percent. The greatest concentration is at Fogarty Creek north of Depoe Bay. One was found as far north as Seaside.

“This is an unprecedented event,” Bruce Menge, a professor of marine biology at OSU, said in a statement. “It’s very serious. Some of the sea stars most heavily affected are keystone predators that influence the whole diversity of life in the intertidal zone.”

Milligan, research program coordinator for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans at OSU, says the cause of the disease is still unknown. Scientists are studying the disease.