Another cycle of sea star surveys from Whidbey Island. The Langley Harbor, which managed to dodge the bullet for some time is now showing the beginnings of the dreaded wasting. With such large population of Sunflower stars, it will be interesting what the next visit there will show. On Monday, January 27, I surveyed two additional sites. From previous dives I knew Deception Pass has a rather small population of sea stars, but I was curious to see how they are faring. Unfortunately, most of the time currents are too strong to dive there and also the beach access for diving is closed in winter. I contacted the park ranger and he not only knew about the wasting syndrome but was very supportive of the idea to survey the situation in the Pass. So gates opened and I am happy to report that so far, the stars are doing fine. Small leak in drysuit did not dampen my joy of seeing the healthy population . On the way home I decided to check out a location I never dove before - under the old wharf at Coupeville. Most of the time the visibility there is less than good, but this Monday it was great, almost 15 feet. So I donned my wet undergarments again and jumped in, with the harbormaster's permission. I expected a short dive with not much to photograph, but the number of Mottled stars in the area was astounding. I never saw so many congregating so tightly. Counting them was quickly dismissed as impractical, so settle for “zillion” :)
I saw signs of wasting stars, but they seemed to be concentrated in one area under the building and compared to the hordes of healthy ones around, seemed insignificant. Of course, it will be interesting to see what the future will bring. I was surprised to find that not one single Sunflower star joined the feast on mussels falling down from the overhead, which feeds the multitudes of stars below. Later, when I talked with the harbormaster, she said, that there were never Sunflower there. She said that she finds them in her crab traps away in other parts of Penn Cove, in the past she brought and released them at the wharf, but always they walked away...
Art/Photo ©2014 by Jan Kocian.
MottledstarsSeastar Wasting DiseaseSeastar Wasting Syndrome