Black Barth News

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Mystery disease killing millions of West Coast starfish


SUMMERTIME IS BEACH time but all is not well on the coast.

wasting-starfishI recently visited my favourite rocky beach, on the southern coast of a Gulf island, in the midst of the Salish Sea. Turquoise blue water sparkled under a cloudless sky and a warm glow lit the encircling bluffs. An otter pulled up on shore, its glossy pelt glistening with salt and sea foam. It held a large rock crab in its claws and chewed on it with relish. The current swirls around the rocks here, carrying cold, oxygen-rich waters into shore, where clusters of mussels, clams, and starfish await the nutrients it brings.

Yet, on this day, something was wrong. The thick clumps of purple ochre stars that normally crammed into every rock gully along the beach were missing. Not one starfish remained. Only empty black crevices remained, devoid of life.

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