Click to on the story to enlarge it and read the most interesting and disastrous events unfolding around the Northwest’s starfish populations.
I wrote and painted this page about a month ago for 48 North - but since then we’ve been looking more intently for ochre stars, or any starfish for that matter. It’s not good. So, this is one of the current environmental tragedies unfolding in the Pacific Northwest. Starfish of all sorts are dying by something we humans have called “Starfish Wasting”. No one knows exactly why this is happening, but many think it’s some sort of virus. Stars are the top dog in the nearshore food chain. Without a healthy population of these guys, other critters like shellfish and urchins tend to take over, throwing everything out of control. The stars simply waste away, arms fall off, bodies turn into a mass of molten goop.
Yes, those are ALL mussels at Tongue Point, without a star in sight.
We’ve already seen this ourselves. On the lowest tide of the year last month, we went to Salt Creek and Tongue Point, west of Port Angeles and where there should be good populations of stars. Instead, we found shellfish completely out of control, acres of them. The ONLY star we saw was this little blood star, surrounded by shellfish in all directions.
Then we hiked the Ozette Loop a week later, a 9.5 mile loop on the west side of Olympic National Park, same thing. After two nights on the beaches and scouring 3 miles of coastline, we did not see a single star of any kind. Not a good sign, for sure (but the hike was as wonderful as like gets).
A friend, Camille, is a Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife clam-expert, and she’s now telling me there are young ocher stars along the Hood Canal – possibly signs the disease is passing, but who knows? Certainly not us! We are really only visitors here, and contrary to some, we are simply not in charge or even know much about the planet we share.
I also can see that using art to enhance awareness of environmental events is probably a high form of communication. What do YOU think?
Thanks for reading this week.
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