Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sea Star Die-off in North Kingstown

Yesterday, I responded to a call from a North Kingstown resident who reported thousands of dead and dying sea stars (or starfish) washing up on the shore of Wild Goose Point.

Save The Bay's Director of Communications John Martin and I headed down there with a video camera and shot this youtube video:

This is a natural phenomena that we see every few years at this season when the sea stars move into the shallows to feed on newly-set barnacles and other shellfish. As I explain in the video, we believe it was caused by a layer of freshwater floating down the Bay after days of heavy rain, which the saltwater-dependent stars can't tolerate.

I should have pointed out that everything else down there was in order- steamer clams were squirting, striped bass were schooling, snails were ooching, and crabs were scuttling around. There was no chemical odor or sheen and no obvious pollution of any kind.

Sea stars can be a nuisance, as they eat quahogs and other valuable shellfish, but they do play in important role in the Bay ecosystem, so it's worth investigating any time there are reports of unusual occurences like this.

There's no special call to action attached to our message here, but it does underscore the need to support environmmental monitoring in the Bay so we can keep track of events like this. As the strong media response to our video proves, people are interested in these things and they care about the health of animals of the Bay. Thanks for tuning in! JT