Has mysterious, deadly sea-star disease reached West Seattle waters?
SEATTLE - New video shot by a local diver over the weekend could be evidence that a mysterious and deadly disease plaguing the West Coast's star-fish population has reached West Seattle waters.
"At the base of the pilings you see just single arms and bodies piled on top of bodies. It's devastating," said Laura James.
James recorded the video at the pipeline and pilings near Seacrest, capturing numerous lifeless and limbless starfish - a stark contrast from a year ago when she documented dozens of healthy and vibrant starfish in the same area.
"Normally there would have been starfish crawling all around the sediment floor," James said. "This time either there were none or where there were starfish they were falling apart and dying leaving these white blobs."
Diseased sea stars have shown up all along the West Coast, from British Columbia to California, including the Puget Sound. The Seattle Aquarium is working with the Vancouver Aquarium as well as scientists from across the country to try and find an answer to what's killing so many sea stars.
Both aquariums have sent samples of diseased and dead sea stars to labs at Cornell University and New York.
The majority of the cases the aquariums have seen deal with a particular starfish known as a sunflower star. However, the sea stars in James' video appear to be a different species showcasing similar wasting symptoms.
Several weeks ago, James also took video from the shoreline off Brace Point in West Seattle. There she reported counting more than 100 starfish washed up and dead along the beach. Dr. Lesanna Lahner, the veterinarian for the Seattle Aquarium, said at that time it was hard to know for sure if what happened to the starfish in the video was related to the wasting disease affecting the sunflower species.
James shared her most recent video with the Seattle Aquarium and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is planning to do several dives in the South Sound, around Tacoma, to see what's happening with starfish populations in the area.
Divers are encouraged to keep an eye out on starfish they see during dives. The Vancouver Aquarium has set up a website where people can post what they find online.
Results from the samples collected and sent for evaluation could take weeks if not months to return.