Video: Sea stars (starfish) die-off seen in West Seattle waters

Dead/Dying seastars in West Seattle from Laura James on Vimeo.

You have probably heard of the die-off of sea stars – aka starfish – all along the West Coast, and in some East Coast spots too. Regional and national news organizations are paying attention – the Washington Post covered the die-off just this week. But nothing brings it home like seeing what “Diver Laura” James observed in West Seattle waters this weekend. She recorded video off Seacrest on Saturday and uploaded the clip (go here if you can’t see/play the embedded version above) early today, two weeks after she documented dead stars on the beach (as reported here). Discussing her video early today via e-mail, she told us, “I knew it was bad, but I hadn’t seen it in a couple weeks, and it was crushing to see bodies piled on top of bodies and the pilings bare.”

This epidemic is fast-growing; this KING 5 report from a month ago features Seattle Aquarium investigators saying only sunflower stars were affected, yet now it’s moved to other species, as Laura’s video shows so vividly. Researchers continue to say they haven’t figured it out, except for the fact that it’s happening in many places – we found this tracking map as well as media coverage including Sonoma County north of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco, Southern California, and the earliest reports this fall, from British Columbia.

41 Replies to "Video: Sea stars (starfish) die-off seen in West Seattle waters"

  • Chris November 24, 2013 (3:09 pm)

    Any conjectures? a normal cycle? radiation from Fukushima?

    • WSB November 24, 2013 (3:25 pm)

      I did a lot of reading to see if something was taking shape as the accepted theory. Not so far, though those who believe there is a Fukushima cover-up are lumping this in. Some stories mention sea-star die-offs in the past, though apparently none so widespread and mostly in waters warmer than ours (and BC’s).

  • JanS November 24, 2013 (3:55 pm)

    and throw global warming in with it all… ala typhoon in the Philippines… :(

  • Noelle November 24, 2013 (4:17 pm)

    Horribly sad. Something is very wrong. I don’t know if its environmental or some sort of disease but this is not normal.

  • Sarah November 24, 2013 (4:32 pm)

    Thank you Laura. This looks devastating and sad.

  • Kathleen November 24, 2013 (4:45 pm)

    When the spring tides (real low during daylight)begin we will have to start a starfish census.

  • chuck and sally's van man November 24, 2013 (5:50 pm)

    Sad and more than a little frightening. Canary in the coal mine and all that…

  • My Eye November 24, 2013 (6:13 pm)

    Saw this a few weeks ago while I was blowing bubbles as well. One thing against the Fukishima theory is that this is happening on the Atlantic side as well.

    Very sad and definately jarring.

  • sam-c November 24, 2013 (7:08 pm)

    as others say, it is a little alarming, but I don’t want to over-react, nor do I think I even know what would be over-reaction. has anyone tested many/ any of the stars to find out why they died. can they be tested?

    • WSB November 24, 2013 (7:24 pm)

      Lots of testing going on – just about every link in the story talks about that. Yet no conclusions so far, apparently.

  • Gatewooder November 24, 2013 (8:08 pm)

    It’s a disease that spread south from BC, no need for conspiracy theories about Fukushima. A more likely vector is the ballast water that is carried in ships across oceans and then released into harbors thousands of miles away. A perfect way for localized pathogens to become global problems.

  • Andy R November 24, 2013 (8:13 pm)

    I have never scene anything like this.

    I have snorkeled on the West side of West Seattle for the last 10 years.

    This year there was a marked reduction in the amount of kelp that grew. I wonder if the cause is in any way related to the starfish problem?

  • cjboffoli November 24, 2013 (8:27 pm)

    The vast Pacific Ocean is diluting Fukishima radiation to unreadable levels within a few kilometers of the Japanese coastline. The chance that this die-off has anything to do with that situation is infinitesimally low. What this issue needs is more science and less mainstream media trying to gin up content for their 24 hour news cycles.

  • Noelle November 24, 2013 (8:56 pm)

    Is there any one organization/charity that is leading the way in trying to figure out what is going on with the Seastars?

  • DiverLaura November 24, 2013 (9:18 pm)

    Main stream media helps build public awareness. There were/are still divers who had NO IDEA that this was going on in their own back yard. If divers, who live and breath in this water (in a manner of speaking) are unaware, I can’t expect non-divers to be paying closer attention.

    The main stream media is exactly where this needs to be, again and again and again and again, enough that it becomes a real issue to the ‘general public’.

    There is nothing so powerful as an activated, involved community… When do we see higher ups and government organizations pushing for answers? Only when community involvement is high.

  • Mike November 24, 2013 (10:26 pm)

    DiverLaura, I think what cjboffoli is getting at is that many media outlets have talking heads that are complete morons making uneducated assumptions and throwing out conspiracy theory junk (FOX News is notorious for that). The fact that people actually post they think it might be Fukushima radiation related shows the negative impact of media not taking a responsible stance on topics they cover.
    This is not the first time a mass die-off of star fish has happened. There was one 5 years ago as well, there are numerous other documented mass die-offs due to the same parasitic invasion in the past.
    People flush their toilet and never take a second thought about it, yet that is more likely a cause of killing sealife here than Fukushima radiation. As another person stated above, ships carry various things across the ocean and dump into our bays, this causes horrible issues to the ecosystem, sometimes killing off our native oyster population when a more invasive oyster from another area of the globe takes place here.
    Science, we need more science. Less speculation.

    • WSB November 24, 2013 (10:38 pm)

      Mike – Most if not all of the links I included allude to the previous cases but I have not come across any quotes from anyone who does NOT think this is worse than anything in the past. From the Washington Post story to which I linked:
      “Formerly known as starfish — a term scientists rejected because they’re more like a sea urchin than a fish — sea stars have been killed by disease several times over the past few decades. But each of those events affected only a single species, marine scientists said, not up to seven, as the new plague has. Divers have previously reported mass sea star deaths in warmer waters south of Santa Barbara, Calif., but not in waters as cool as those of Washington’s Puget Sound.”
      I would like to hope that this too shall pass. But if we all sit around and pooh-pooh it and say, oh, yeah, whatever, that happened before, we may never find out. And much as we all like to hope there are “scientists” “somewhere” working on it, their funding has been slashed in some cases. Seal Sitters pointed this out last month:
      And if that’s happening for the more-glamorous marine mammals … whither the starfish?

  • Floraista November 24, 2013 (10:31 pm)

    This clip is an utterly frightening view of a situation that reminds us how fragile we all are; here on planet earth.
    Let’s do all we can for our part. Use less pesticide and fertilizer or none at all.keep the roads and drains clear.pick up dog waste and dispose in garbage.Piggyback car errands.
    Be proud of helping. I pick up litter on my street and lots of places. If we all do just a little it will add up. Say a prayer or an intention for a safe healthy planet.

  • shed22 November 24, 2013 (10:40 pm)

    Darn it, I love you, Mike. And Laura. And WSB. Oh, and science. Yes, Mike, we need more science. And more you, and Laura, and WSB. Poor starfish.

  • Shannon November 24, 2013 (10:57 pm)

    This is such a bummer. Thank you, WSB for posting on this. I am curious if there is anything the average consumer can do to prevent this – will be following up to see what they find out. This is what happens to our poor planet when science funding is given the backseat to the ever growing military spending. It just seems like such a double loss – less funding to science, more funding to military and more young lives lost. :(

  • DiverLaura November 24, 2013 (11:11 pm)

    I have seen this twice in my 23 year diving career. Once in the mid 90’s and again in the mid 2000’s.

    This is far worse. I have a few videos documenting the mid 2000’s occurrence and although there were dead stars here and there (same sites, cove 1 & 2 specifically) it was nothing like this. This is widespread and epic in proportion. I will not speculate on the cause, merely report/share my observations. It will be up to the science to figure this one out.

    Mike, where do you see that it is the same parasitic invasion? I have not heard that as of yet, and have been trying to stay up to date on data and if that has been figured out, would love to pass the info on…

    Thousands and thousands of arms that will never hug anything again :(

  • ari November 25, 2013 (2:04 am)

    I’ll educate you commenters. Starfish are dying because of solar maximum. Not because of your toilet water. And its not Fukushima radiated water either. Not yet anyways. It’s the amount of energy that the suns creates through its solar flares. The sun has been very active the last few months.

  • ChemE November 25, 2013 (4:49 am)

    I am an industrial chemical engineer. I have been doing weather related research for the past year and plotting algae blooms, fish kills, sea star wasting as well as waterspouts & sinkholes and the data is showing me something in common.

    >80% of these appear to be happening within 50 miles of Doppler Weather/Miltary Radar Stations. Each station is pulsing 750,000(NEXRAD Doppler) to 3,000,000(Military) watts of microwave radiation into the atmosphere. Many weather stations overlap in coverage so the energy may be greater in some areas. Each pulse only lasts a fraction of a second, but these pulses occur 24/7. Over the past couple of years, each of these towers has been upgraded to Dual Polarization which gives the radar a vertical wave in addition to a horizontal wave. This radiation is designed to be penetrating so that it can “see through” 150 miles of water vapor in the atmosphere. This radiation is passing through all biology at times and anything on the ground is considered “ground clutter”

    My data is showing a tremendous amount of brown algae growth, fish, manatee, dolphin deaths directly around the Melbourne, FL Doppler station as well as in Tampa. I am seeing something similar in the Seattle area as well as others.

    Sitka, Alaska, which is very remote, is having sea star wasting within 3 miles of a doppler tower. I think the atmosphere is discharging an increase in weakly ionizing, penetrating radiation through the Earth and waterways around these towers. There was much concern about the long term effects of microwave radiation in the 1970’s but there have been no long term studies. Think of the atmosphere as a capacitor discharging energy to the Earth during storms and to a lesser degree all of the time. I think Doppler has put us all in an easy bake microwave oven. Microwave radiation is known to effect nervous systems and trigger mutations. I am being very sincere. I have lots of data on my blog.

  • G November 25, 2013 (8:15 am)

    I suspect that it is an algae infestation, what we know as “Red Tide.”

  • BBrett November 25, 2013 (12:52 pm)

    Captive sea stars in aquariums suffer from wasting syndrome when there are sudden changes in salinity, even very slight variations. Could the rapid melting of arctic sea ice be causing salinity levels to change due to dilution? That’s my theory…

  • Nate Hart November 25, 2013 (3:07 pm)

    We had higher than normal water temperatures in the Puget Sound, as did the California coast. Generally temperature controls bacteria and disease spread in water. Anybody researching this?

  • CE November 25, 2013 (4:53 pm)

    I was looking for some information on the East Coast die-off, and found this interesting article:
    Researchers have observed the disease spreading quickly through aquarium tanks, leading one to believe it might be more virus than environmental.

  • Greener pea November 25, 2013 (10:07 pm)

    Thank you, this is very interesting…Can you please post a link to your blog?

  • ChemE November 26, 2013 (6:10 pm)

    If it is ionizing radiation from the atmosphere, it will damage immune systems over time. It will also penetrate water and even possibly buildings. Doppler radiation penetrates 150 miles through the atmosphere. They consider buildings ground clutter.

    My Blog:

  • 2 Much Whine November 26, 2013 (6:15 pm)

    Greener Pea, if you just click on the name ChemE in his/her post it will take you to the blog. It’s called Dark Matters A Lot. . . .

  • Community Member November 27, 2013 (7:16 pm)

    It’s not radar. The health impacts of radar have been studied extensively since World War II.
    NOAA radar stations have recently been upgraded, but Canada is upgrading their doppler over the next ten years. Areas in BC where this was observed first are In Canada.
    Here is a story about research being done by a biologist:
    Here are some interesting Vancouver Aquarium page :

  • My@Cents November 28, 2013 (2:48 pm)

    Isn’t it just possible, that this is what happens when Washington residents and businesses; wash soaps, yard and garden chemicals, auto chemicals, and whatever goes into drains and whatever doesn’t make it to a landfills, does when it ends up in the water? Why aren’t the citizens of this community willing to take accountability for our own toxic habits? We are doing our part of destruction without anyone or anything else’ help. Think about it; What did you clean your toilet with? Wash your car with? Wash your hair with? Where did it all go? Ride a boat or Ferry lately? What about the fact that these waters are subjected to Global shipping to satisfy our consumer demand? The earth was fine before industrialization and consumerism. Why isn’t this obvious destruction to our fragile ecosystems making individuals make different choices? We don’t need to have degrees to put common or good sense into action.

  • lokay5 December 1, 2013 (1:52 am)

    The amount, and the effects, of the radionuclides being continually released to the Pacific ocean from the triple reactor core melt-outs at Fukushima Daiichi is being downplayed and in some cases covered up.

  • ThinkMcFly December 1, 2013 (7:32 am) has been covering Japan’s nuclear crisis DAILY and there are several articles on ENENEWS that discuss strange happenings in sea life in the Pacific Ocean since Japan’s nuclear meltdowns.

    Here is a plume map showing where the radiation from Japan’s meltdowns went. Notice how it’s all over the Pacific Ocean:

    80% of the radiation from Japan’s nuclear meltdowns went over the Pacific Ocean and much of that fell into the Pacific Ocean.

    It is very reasonable to conclude that radiation from Japan’s nuclear meltdowns could be a contributing factor to the odd things happening to Pacific-Ocean sea-life.

  • ChemE December 1, 2013 (8:10 am)

    There have been no long term effect studies done on pulsing megawatts of doppler radiation through biology 24/7 year after year. Show me the study? TDWR Dopplers were rushed in in the 90’s due to plane crashes at airports, NO STUDY The Alaska sea star wasting is occuring 3 miles from a NEXRAD tower. Pillar Point in California has seven military dopplers and the sea stars are dissolving on the beach. SHOW ME THE STUDIES. LOOK AT MY DATA

  • ChemE December 1, 2013 (8:13 am)

    Is microwave radiation suspected of having any genetic effects? Yes. There was an excessive birth rate of female offspring at a Sperry-Rand radar plant during World War II, where 19 workers in a row became fathers of girls. At Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1969-70, 17 children were born with congenital clubfoot—four times the expected number. Their fathers were helicopter pilots routinely exposed to emissions from military radar.

    Have there been any long-term studies on the overall effects of microwaves?
    All our studies to my knowledge have been short-term. There has not been one serious study over a 20-year latency period, during which biological damage can evolve. That’s the whole ball game right there. What happens to us in 20 years? The assumption that this stuff at lower levels is absorbed or goes right through the body without ill effect is asinine. It has put our society—the world’s most technologically sophisticated—into the position of crossing its fingers.

  • Community Member December 2, 2013 (10:00 am)

    You are cut-and-pasting from a best-selling book written 36 years ago that warned against putting microwave ovens in our household kitchens?
    This west-coast wasting phenomenon was first observed this summer in an area in BC that was seriously over-populated by sea stars.
    Any rational theory needs to fit that localized sudden swing from over-population to widespread death, and needs to fit the environmental conditions in coastal British Columbia.

  • ChemE December 2, 2013 (8:27 pm)

    That same area in BC you are talking about has 3 doppler radar towers and has had red tide and fish kills all summer. Why don’t you show me one study on the long term effects of pulsed, high power Doppler microwave radiation? You can’t because there has never been one. Take a look at my data from Florida and around the country before you categorically dismiss it. The fact is star fish, bees, bats, amphibians, are all disappearing at accelerating rates.

  • Community Member December 3, 2013 (7:06 am)

    Obviously there are many environmental problems, with many causes.

Sorry, comment time is over.