Banner Photo: Echinoderm. (Credit: Lee Newman)

2020 Rating

2020 Rationale

For some sea star species, numbers remain low and wasting disease is still observed.

2017 Rating

2017 Rationale

A mysterious condition leading to the death of large numbers of sea stars of various species throughout the Pacific Northwest continues to confound the scientific community and could potentially have huge impacts on the marine food web in Howe Sound. The sunflower star, a keystone species, shows no robust signs of recovery.

The following is an excerpt from the full updated article. Download the full 2020 article for all content and references.

Sea Stars: wasting disease is ongoing

Author: Jessica Schultz, Manager, Howe Sound Conservation and Research Team, Ocean Wise Research Institute
Reviewer: Neil McDaniel, McDaniel Marine Surveys

Excerpt from 2020 article

Sea star wasting disease (SSWD) has been a serious issue along the entire Pacific Northwest coast, including in the waters of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/ Howe Sound, since the major mortality event of 2013.

Read the full article to see what else is happening.

Background: Sun star, Solaster stimpsoni. (Credit: Lee Newman)

What’s been done since 2017?

The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.

2017 Action Action Taken
Individual and Organization Actions
If you see a sick or dying sea star, please submit your observations to the UC Santa Cruz monitoring site. Your observations can help researchers track disease spread and understand the potential causes and consequences of sea star wasting. If applicable to your organization, encourage companywide participation in this citizen science project. Almost 50 observations have been submitted to the above monitoring site from Átl’ḵa7tsem/ Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound alone.
Government Action and Policy
Increase public education about sea star wasting disease to encourage participation in citizen science projects, and personal actions to help decrease overfishing, pollution, habitat damage and stressors. The previous Ocean Watch Howe Sound Edition (2017) increased public awareness throughout the Sound, although this was not a government action.
If studies reflect the need, classify sea stars as Imperiled Species by the Species at Risk Act. In Canada and the USA, discussions continue regarding whether to list sunflower stars as endangered. Thus far, they have not been given this official designation. Researchers and conservationists continue to work on a sea star recovery and monitoring strategy, but because of the complexity of factors causing the outbreak, defining a specific approach remains a challenge.

What can you do?

A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.

action-individual Individual and Organization Actions:

    • NEW Actions to mitigate climate change will promote sea star recovery and decrease the probability of other wildlife disease outbreaks in the future.

action-governmentGovernment Action and Policy:

    • Financially support ongoing research projects and assess the need for additional research. Support further studies specifically on the cause(s) of sea star wasting disease.
    • NEW List sunflower stars as endangered in Canada and the USA, at provincial, federal or international levels.
    • NEW Support and fund researchers and conservationists in Canada and the USA to continue to work on a sea star recovery and monitoring strategy.
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