National Geographic
Menu

Massive Starfish Die-Off Baffles Scientists

The waters off British Columbia, Canada, are littered with dead starfish, and researchers have no idea what’s causing the deaths.

At the end of August, marine biologist and scuba enthusiast Jonathan Martin was out on his usual Saturday dive with some friends when he noticed something unusual.

dead seastar picture

A decomposing P. helianthoides starfish still clinging to a rock. Photograph courtesy Jonathan Martin

“We just started noticing dead starfish that looked like they had their arms chopped off,” Martin said.

They were sunflower starfish (Pycnopodia helianthoides), a major marine predator in the area that feeds mostly on sea urchins and snails. Like most starfish, the sunflower starfish can regenerate lost limbs—it can have up to 20—and can grow to be up to three feet (a meter) across. (Related pictures: “5 Animals That Regrow Body Parts.”)

Since Martin was diving in an area frequented by crabbers, at first he thought the sunflower starfish had gotten caught in some of the crab traps and had lost limbs escaping. But Martin kept seeing large numbers of dead starfish as he and his friends swam to a marine park where such crab fishing is illegal. Martin knew then it wasn’t the traps that were causing the starfish deaths.

After returning from the dive, he visited friends at a local dive shop who were active in marine conservation. Without any definitive answer, he shared photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube—taken at Lion’s Bay and Whytecliff Park in Vancouver—to try to get ideas from others about what was going on.

“It really struck a chord in other divers who were seeing it on Facebook and social media, both locally and as far away as California, who had been seeing similar things,” Martin said.

Searching for a Cause

Still without any answers, Martin wrote to invertebrate expert Christopher Mah, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and author of the Echinoblog. In his email, he said:

“[The starfish] seem to waste away, ‘deflate’ a little, and then just … disintegrate. The arms just detach, and the central disc falls apart. It seems to happen rapidly, and not just dead animals undergoing decomposition, as I observed single arms clinging to the rock faces, tube feet still moving, with the skin split, gills flapping in the current. I’ve seen single animals in the past looking like this, and the first dive this morning I thought it might be crabbers chopping them up and tossing them off the rocks. Then we did our second dive in an area closed to fishing, and in absolutely amazing numbers. The bottom from about 20 to 50 feet [6 to 15 meters] was absolutely littered with arms, oral discs, tube feet, gonads and gills … it was kind of creepy.”

On his blog, Mah speculated as to some causes, including a type of parasite that lives on starfish—the leading hypothesis at the moment, Martin said. (See more starfish pictures.)

starfish arm

A lone starfish arm. Photograph courtesy Jonathan Martin

Both Mah and Martin also wonder if a population explosion of the species, which began about three years ago, has something to do with the deaths.

“It was an unprecedented increase, so maybe what we’re seeing is just sort of a bursting of the bubble. The animals just reached a density that was unsustainable,” Martin suggested.

Starfish Not Alone

Yet what’s especially alarming to Martin, Mah, and other marine biologists is the fact that this die-off might not be restricted to P. helianthoides or the northern Pacific. Martin has spotted other dead invertebrates besides the sunflower starfish, including its predator, the morning sun star (Solaster dawsoni).

sun star picture

The morning sun star (Solaster dawsoni) is also affected by the die-off. Photograph courtesy Jonathan Martin

Earlier this summer, researchers also noticed a massive die-off of another starfish species on the U.S. East Coast. Scientists at the University of Rhode Island first noticed the large numbers of deaths of Asterias species—part of the same family as the sunflower starfish in British Columbia—in 2011, and since then, dead starfish have been documented along the eastern seaboard from Maine to New Jersey.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is worried enough that they’ve asked Martin to go back out and collect samples for them to test in the lab. Although the agency has expressed interest in the die-off, Martin says that starfish aren’t a major research priority, and the main burden of investigation and discovery has fallen on him and other divers with an interest in marine ecology.

Meanwhile, Martin cautions people to not jump to conclusions.

“When I posted this on Facebook, some people immediately thought that this was due to global warming or other human-related activities. While that’s certainly a possibility, it’s all speculation.”

What do you think caused the die-off?

Follow Carrie Arnold on Twitter and Google+.

Comments

  1. has20birds
    Illinois
    March 2, 6:53 am

    Same problem in California. In fact, this is why all the almond trees are dying? Water for fracking?

    This report is 32 pages long. It’s called Dirty Water: Fracking Offshore California

    The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) addresses the oil industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing (akafracking) and other forms of well stimulation from offshoreplatforms located within federal, Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. The Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Islands are renowned globally for their beauty, richness of wildlife,and overall health of the environment. Although fracking has been conducted off of California’s shores for at least two decades, the practice was until recently largely unknown to state and federal regulators, as well as the general public.

    http://www.edcnet.org/…/offshore_fracking_report_2013.pdf

    If this link
    doesn’t work just search the name of the report (above)

    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently identified California’s Monterey Shale, encompassing large portions of the southern and central portions of the state, both on and offshore, as the nation’s largest oil shale “play.” The agency estimates that the Monterey harbors 15.4 billion barrels of “technically recoverable” oil, more than 60 percent of the nation’s total estimated shale oil resources. Although a true oil shale boom has not yet occurred, fracking for shale in California is already on the rise, with at least 1,200 fracs performed in the state since January 2011. The technological advancements driving today’s “modern” fracking pose new and largely unstudied environmental and public health risks that are cumulative to the significant impacts arising from “traditional” oil and gas production. For example, today’s fracking relies on “frac fluids” containing extensive amounts of chemicals, many undisclosed under trade secret and other business confidentiality laws. Compared to past practices, fracking is now conducted further below the surface (often more than two miles), down wells that pass through groundwater aquifers commonly relied upon for domestic and agricultural use. And fracking today relies on the use of much larger quantities of increasingly scarce freshwater supplies than past oil and gas operations.

  2. Genodr
    Pacific Rim
    February 16, 8:19 pm

    Never let a good crisis go to waste.

    Global warming cult attacks radiation to defend orthodox beliefs. So, no problem, let them keep eating Pacific sushi.

    The environmental movement is self destructing like star fish. Sad.

    http://beforeitsnews.com/mass-animal-death/2014/01/pacific-ocean-death-blamed-on-global-warming-instead-of-fukushima-outrage-2432314.html

  3. WakeUpSheep
    Florida
    January 6, 1:14 pm

    It’s not rocket science. It’s call FUKISHIMA and CHEMTRAILS

  4. efraim, gonzalez
    spring tx
    December 20, 2013, 4:37 am

    Could any of this have anything to do with the chemicals they used to clean up the oil spill or possibly , the chemtrails

  5. adr
    washington
    December 18, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Why do so many average people think researchers aren’t testing for radiation? That was one of the first things ruled out by NOT finding elevated radiation levels in affected sea star samples. They did and continue to test for radiation levels. Scientists are not stupid.

  6. EXPO JO SHOW (facebook)
    HONOLULU
    December 17, 2013, 7:07 am

    http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/weather/news/fukushima?LANG=en&VAR=euraddry

    OBVIOUSLY RADIATION FROM FUKASHIMA W/300TONS OF CONTAMINATED WATER LEAKING INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN EVERYDAY FROM THE BEGINNING OF DISASTER.

  7. RMJ Atkinson
    NZ
    December 13, 2013, 5:57 pm

    I would not dismiss Fukushima. Even if it is not to blame in this case, it is going to have an effect. And on the East Coast – think – Gulf of Mexico and the poison they used to clean up the oil. I sure hope it is a natural die-off, but something tells me it is not, and especially so when scientists are so quick to discount it.

  8. bukwheet
    Seatttle
    December 12, 2013, 4:18 am

    radiation bonds with hydrogen atoms / what is water? hydrogen!!! / been raining nuclear fallout for 2 years in increasing levels / winds and currents are westerly flows across the Pacific / North American Continent is now a Nuclear Easy-Bake Oven / buy a dosimeter and impress your friends (O,o)

  9. Jason Chorostecki
    Ontario, Canada
    December 6, 2013, 10:07 am

    @Griffin…What’s your name for the seahorse? It’s not a horse.

  10. Daryl
    seattle
    November 25, 2013, 10:48 pm

    If only this wasting disease where affecting the human race. That would be the only thing that would save the planet.

  11. ChemE
    Atlanta
    November 16, 2013, 10:57 am

    I am an industrial chemical engineer in the US. For the past 10 months I have been plotting algae blooms, fish and mammal kills (manatees, dolphins, etc), waterspouts and sinkholes in Google Earth and it has led me to believe it is our High Powered Dual Pol Doppler radar towers adding to the damage to biology. Each tower is pulsing 0.25 – 1.25 Megawatts of microwave radiation into the overhead atmosphere and I believe much of that energy is absorbed, attenuated and redirected towards Earth and waterways, gradually ionizing the surroundings at a higher rate then normal. Since it is low frequency (centimeters in wavelength) I believe it is very penetrating and is ionizing dissolved oxygen from the waterways. They recently upgraded many of them to dual polarization which I think may be making it worse. Think of the atmosphere as a capacitor discharging to the Earth as a battery and you will understand what I mean. >80% of fish kills due to algae and large sinkholes during storms in Florida are happening near Doppler towers. The Sitka, Seattle and Pillar Point sea star wasting sites are all very near high powered doppler/radar sites as well as further South. 1 megawatt is instantaneous is enough to power 500 homes.

  12. chapin
    maryland
    November 13, 2013, 9:26 pm

    I wonder if it has anything to do with radiation from the incident in Japan with the nuclear plants. There is also a die off of dolphins off the coast of california, and a die off of sea lions.

  13. Kirk
    Birch Bay Wa.
    November 13, 2013, 8:13 pm

    Did any of you biblical and radiation theorists bother to read the article that clearly states another species had the same thing happen to it on the East Coast in 2011 ?! You people are a trip :-/

  14. Dexter Redland
    maine of the united states
    November 13, 2013, 6:38 am

    to say that Humans are causing the die off as if we are not an integral part of Nature doesn’t make sense to me. Nature need not communicate through language. Nature has way cooler communication methods. we … cannot speak for Nature … when we think we can that’s when we get blind-sided by previously unknown asteroid. game over, i hope the specialists in these fields of study can determine the cause and, if appropriate, prevent or mitigate it. ugh. PAAAATRRRIIIICKKKKKKK!!!!!

  15. delta99
    November 13, 2013, 3:56 am

    Where did people get the idea this is radiation from Fukushima?

    Whatever it is, it appears to be affecting the east coast as well.

    Has radiation from Japan infected the Atlantic as well?

    I have no idea what it is, but I think bacteria, virus or parasite are much more logical explanations. Hopefully a cause and a solution will be found soon.

  16. Sal
    November 11, 2013, 11:51 am

    H1n1

  17. Evan Kopelson
    United States
    November 11, 2013, 2:15 am

    It’s amazing that scientists seem baffled, while on this and other articles about the starfish, in the comments sections, everyday ordinary people with regular common sense are talking about radiation and toxicity of the oceans. What happened in Hiroshima after people were exposed to radiation? Their limbs fell off and their skin melted, among other things like total failure of their organs. Why are scientists baffled? Starfish absorb everything they are exposed to. I’m amazed at the baffled scientists who don’t seem to have any common sense to even postulate that this might be a cause, no less the obvious one.

  18. Patrick Smith
    So. Calif. USA
    November 9, 2013, 12:49 pm

    I just returned from a 5-day underwater survey of the northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel) and although the focus of our dives was not biological, it was noted that the population of sunflower starfish (Pycnopodia helianthoides) appeared healthy and in fact there was comment made on the very large number of juveniles seen. It appears on a very cursory look over a fairly large area that recruitment for this species, at least in the Channel Islands area is fairly robust.

  19. Ed Ward, MD
    November 6, 2013, 1:40 pm

    Scientists baffled by marine deaths. Of course they are, when they refuse to the do the extremely simple task of putting an appropriate Geiger counter near the corpse. You can NOT find what you refuse to test for. “San Onofre Edison… West Coast Radiation Crisis – Part 1″

    FUKUshIMA: Seven Waves, Away… Abandon Ship

  20. Tom Petrie
    United States
    November 5, 2013, 4:27 pm

    Don’t know what’s causing this horrible issue, but my first inclination is Fukushima. Ninety percent it is this. But it could be something else, of course.

  21. the railer
    So. CA
    November 4, 2013, 11:07 pm

    Just a reminder that radiation does not, I repeat, does not dilute, it just travels…or rather, spreads. This is from the IAEA’s report from 1955 and from several scientists studying the nuclear plants in UK and FR that directly pump the waste into the ocean. Yes, I am not lying-this practice is frightening and unless you are involved in trying to stop it, it will most probably continue until we take our last breath. This outbreak may not be from Japan but I thought everyone should know that it could be, for obvious reasons.

  22. Phil Garner
    United States
    November 3, 2013, 8:11 pm

    I’ve been diving a reef frequently over the past two months. It has more Sunflower stars there than any other reef in the area. Yesterday there were several disintegrating stars on the reef. We had a fluctuation in water temperatures one day last month. The water warmed seven degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled back down three hours later. If I begin to disintegrate I’ll sue Fukushima. :)

  23. Dan
    Real world
    November 1, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Global warming what joke ..

  24. Jamieson
    palm beach, fl.
    November 1, 2013, 10:50 am

    What you’re viewing is from:
    “Radiation & Toxins”.
    1. “Fukushima” is the main culprit.
    2. Following Fukushima is biological weapons & warfare.
    i.e. Hawaii.
    All the best,

  25. Dan
    Blaine, WA
    October 27, 2013, 2:30 am

    @ Griffin
    For the love of god, they aren’t “stars” either.

  26. bluesapphire48
    Monterey, California
    October 8, 2013, 8:28 pm

    Whether it is radiation from Fukushima or global warming, the starfish certainly have not benefitted from the ACTIVITIES OF MAN.

  27. Griffin
    October 8, 2013, 12:13 pm

    Please, for the love of god, call them SEASTARS!!!! They are not fish!! This is National Geographic, pull it together!

  28. John
    October 7, 2013, 9:22 pm

    and now we also have 1/3 of honey bees die off last year alone, and they expect that number to keep decreasing by 1/3 every year for the foreseeable future. The attitude of money is God is going to have to change. Open up the black files where they shelf alternatives to oil and nuclear and get real about the worlds situation.
    It doesn’t take a lot of thought to realize humans are somewhere in the line to start experiencing the same or maybe thats the whole purpose of ignoring it. Some say thats a good thing, so,,, who wants to volunteer?

  29. Donna Friesen
    Calgary
    October 7, 2013, 12:01 pm

    In September 2013 we spent 6 days on Qualicom Beach in Bowser. On the Tuesday we were there we were pleased to witness the arrival of several hundred healthy and colorful starfish. The colors ranged from beige to burgundy and even bright yellow and orange. They did, however, not return for the rest of our stay. We heard around our resort that a scallop farm had destroyed a lot of the starfish and the bullwhip kelp and people were glad to hear that we had seen and photographed so many of these beautiful creatures

  30. Jason
    Monterey, CA
    October 7, 2013, 10:56 am

    We are noticing the same phenomenon here in central CA. So far I’ve only seen sunstars. I only started seeing/hearing about them in the last few weeks. I am currently polling other local divers to get spatial, temporal, and depth ranges for this event.

  31. Laird Kerr
    Vancouver, Canada
    October 1, 2013, 2:18 am

    Not likely a radiation spill, too diluted and would not cause such a sudden die-off. More likely a biological agent like a virus. Fish farming has introduced some new viruses to the local wild fish populations so that could be a source. The farms are very unnatural to the normal balance of the ocean.
    What is “really” disturbing is that this issue has not hit mainstream media…that usually means that the issue is known at some high level and that the truth is being suppressed… That kind of global media manipulation is far more dangerous than a new fish farm plague…

  32. Michael
    South coast bc
    September 24, 2013, 10:16 am

    Lets see…..fukishima has been dumping 300 tons of radioactive contaminated water into the pacific for ….what..3 years now? 3 years and the Japanees government is JUST now admitting its STILL leaking..right now…300 tons A DAY…next we’ll probably sea polar bears and sea lions with tumours…..yaaa progress…..us humans Suck! We really know how to destroy things….:-(

  33. Roy Mulder
    Vancouver British Columbia
    September 23, 2013, 7:21 pm

    Having witnessed this massive die off event first hand, I am staggered by the lack of interest on the part of Canadian government. When millions of any organism die off in the matter of a couple of weeks, it seems it needs to be a priority. Instead, because it is isn’t a commercially marketed species, it goes without significant study or interest.
    Granted the pycnopodia were over-running the marine environment as of late, they still play an integral role with other species. As to other species of stars remaining unaffected, this is not correct. We were out diving yesterday in Howe Sound and found all sea stars affected and the very few remaining looked in very rough shape.

  34. Eisha
    Canada
    September 23, 2013, 2:09 pm

    This time MAN is in the wrong. IQ tests are designed to support patriarchal growth and technocracy. Which lend themselves to using abusing and raping the earth. This earth is MY home MY land the true creator which ‘man’ the every dominating patriarch can not live with in harmony and seeks to destroy.

  35. Eisha
    Canada
    September 23, 2013, 2:03 pm

    There’s not enough money for researchers to find out what’s actually causing recent massive die offs of ocean life, and it’s not just here, but all over the world. Not all deaths are being reported! According to some really insightful people commenting, behind their screens ..only dumb, half brains believe 300 tonnes of radioactive waste a day for 2 years and all the other oil spills and dumps aren’t responsible for any death to life in the ocean. Most certainly there’s a natural cycle of life and death. But this is kind of at the supernatural level.. Nuclear waste spewing for 2 years in the ocean.. nuclear waste has been proven to be toxic. Nuclear bombs kills. They actually turn people into ashes.. so lets be real.. all you deniers go swim in the gulf find a nice oil patch and then dry off and look at all those animals dying and say tot hem.. Hey dumb animal I’m a man. And patriarchy rules. Man is god- immune to your symptoms.

  36. Eisha
    Calgary
    September 23, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Well, there’s not enough money for researchers to find out what’s actually causing a sudden massive die off of ocean life and it’s not just here, but all over the world. Not all deaths are being reported. what about he even smaller species we don’t even see…. According to some really insightful people commenting, behind their screens ..only dumb, half brains believe 300 tonnes of radioactive waste a day for 2 years doesn’t cause any death to life in the ocean.

  37. Dallas
    United States
    September 21, 2013, 11:06 am

    Between the pesticide runoff, Nuclear accidents, fracking chemicals , depleted uranium weapons such as the sea wizz
    and oil and gas leaks from everywhere I’m surprised there is still life in our oceans. The oceans one day will say enough and freeze to save what’s left. We are rapidly approaching a threshold.

  38. Peter Mieras
    Vamcouver Island
    September 17, 2013, 10:56 am

    This title on this article is a typical example of the bad journalism these days. There is no massive die off of starfish in BC. Just a localized problem around vancouver. I live and run a dive charter on Vancouver Island and checked with a lot of colleges who have NOT seen this. Here in barkley Sound the starfish are doing fine. Maybe Cary Arnold who posted this should do some fact checking before making broad unsubstantiated statements. BC coastal waters run from Washington state all the way up to Alaska. Maybe take some “Geographic” remediation classes

  39. Randy
    south Oregon coastline
    September 16, 2013, 1:31 pm

    Oil fracking is fracking ridiculous!!!

  40. Chris Pattillo
    Seattle
    September 16, 2013, 12:34 pm

    It is possible that this die off is due to fresh water storm runoff. We have had a very dry summer with a couple of huge storms at the end of August.

    When it is dry it allows sea stars to begin to utilize areas that normally have freshwater runoff. When there is a big storm it can flood the area with fresh water killing off stars which are susceptible to fresh water and cannot move away quickly.

    Solaster stimpsoni (Stimpson’s sun star) are very sensitive to fresh water kills. It would be interesting to know if S stemsoni were also killed or if they continue to survive in the area.

    Another theory could be acidification. I am sure those pointing to global warming were referring to the increase in carbon dioxide in the water which created carbonic acid. Muscles off the Washington coast were killed off due to acidification.

    By the way BC Canada is on the West coast.

    -Chris

    http://www.theperfectdive.com

  41. peter
    palm beach florida
    September 15, 2013, 10:54 pm

    Many changes have been happening in the planet we have counted numerous ice ages and total species have disappeared. The question is though how many new species of starfish are now on the planet and other marine life. As a marine biologist and ecologist I think the planet is changing as this happens everything changes.

  42. Jason Seymour
    Spokane. WA
    September 15, 2013, 7:55 pm

    It definitely could be something unrelated, but I have seen something similar in recently imported starfish (mostly Astropecten and Linkia species) from around the world. They literally seem to fall apart over the course of days, all the while remaining alive. The only observation I’ve noticed has been elevated ammonia/ammonium, >4 mg/L, in their shipping bags. I have had some success saving individuals in the early stages with daily potassium iodide baths, the hobbyist treatment for many bacterial infections in corals. Based off this, I’ve always assumed it was bacterial in origin and only effecting weak/poisoned individuals.

    Could be unrelated though…

  43. Stephen Eric Serati
    62948,USA
    September 15, 2013, 6:56 pm

    Fukushima needs help now from the world community.The prevailing winds and currents brought the debris from Japan over to the same area whats to say it’s not bringing high levels of radiation.I believe the reason for it not showing up more in Japan is because of the prevailing winds its being pushed off shore.Eastwardly .I’m just sayen check it.Put the USS Oceana on it.

  44. Clay Jones
    British Columbia
    September 15, 2013, 1:37 pm

    For those of you believe it is the wrath of god or the Fukushima nuclear plant radiation you should be aware there is a massive die-off of starfish on the north east coast of North America and that 50,000 dead starfish washed up on the western shores of Ireland in 2009.One thing common to all of these sites is “fish farms”. They are killing our ocean floors and polluting the waters around them. They should not be placed in the open ocean. Put them on land or soon, we will have no wild fish left.

  45. Krissy Boyce
    Canada
    September 15, 2013, 5:33 am

    Sad. Research into it will only create more speculation. I hope they can find an answer and solve the issue asap. More than one reason causing this unreal death toll.

  46. BernieM
    UK
    September 15, 2013, 5:03 am

    You should get samples of any species that seems to be suffering the symptoms. Water samples would also be a good idea – then find a reliable lab – or 3 completely independent labs if funding allows.

  47. Carmen
    Edmonton , Ab.
    September 15, 2013, 12:53 am

    Are You Kinding me !!! Hello its Pollution and Radiation ( Jappan ect… ) !!!!!

  48. jacob
    September 15, 2013, 12:47 am

    There are approximately 187 quintilion gallons of wager in the pacific ocean. .. 187 million is a drop in the bucket

  49. clem
    September 15, 2013, 12:17 am

    i doubt its fukoshima because we havent seen massive starfish die offs anywhere else. if it was radiation, why hasnt japan suffered massive starfish die offs?

  50. donna fuller
    texas usa
    September 14, 2013, 11:51 pm

    i’m thinking more along the lines of the ecology of the areas they are dying off in. our oceans are heating up, we have pollutants in the waters, overpopulation of a species does create it’s own cutback. for us it’s seen as omg we have to do something about that now to save that species when it should have been nature treated with respect first all along and not dumping garbage. it starts locally and works it way outwards. this planet has seen many die offs and recreations/regeneration of species. this won’t be the first, it won’t be the last.

  51. CAT
    Croatia
    September 14, 2013, 10:10 pm

    Large scale die-off of specific species can be caused by number of things. From environmental factors such as toxins and pollutants, interruption of the food chain, introduction of an evasive species and so on, to bacterial/parasitic/viral pandemic.
    Without proper water quality testing and close examination of tissue samples it is impossible to pinpoint the cause.
    Also, it is highly unlikely that radiation is the cause in this case, level of radioactivity required to decimate population in this matter would be extremely high. There is no way it wouldn’t be detected by all stations on Atlantic-north west immediately, besides radiation would have severe impact on entire biosphere not just a specific specie of echinoderms.

  52. Robert Torres
    September 14, 2013, 10:09 pm

    Kevin Wratt offered a plausible explanation. Sounds like a fast spreading virus.

  53. Ian Boardman
    Arlington, Mass.
    September 14, 2013, 10:01 pm

    Fukushima radiation.

  54. Kim Soo Goodtrack
    new westminster,bc
    September 14, 2013, 9:32 pm

    Don’t forget that Victoria and Vancouver both dispose of their sewer…sewage waste water into the very strait where the star fish are dying…100 years of waste…mix in some radiation and viola…a deadly water…plus the ‘lowermainlands’ industrial runoff…hmmmm…sound viable?

  55. daniel coupe
    Australia
    September 14, 2013, 8:34 pm

    remember the nuclear power plat that was destroyed 2 years due to earthquakes in Japan, Fukushima power plant? its continuing to spew nuclear waste into the pacific. It has been said it cannot be contained, hence chernobyl that killed one million, this is much worse and there is little even being said. 470 megatons of nuclear waste i read was already leaked, and two reactors are still on fire, as they cannot be sealed to prevent this with no roof, and america especially California coast line is first spot the fallout will hit. Look at Turkey, there soil is contaminated for 600 years. dont take my word, investigate this and see we are at the beginning of end of days.

  56. Marwa
    Australia
    September 14, 2013, 8:31 pm

    We have seen a lot of dead starfish here in Melbourne ‘Port Melbourne beach’ 2 days ago !

  57. W Derek Gibbons
    Paget, Bermuda
    September 14, 2013, 8:17 pm

    I believe that some years ago there was a massive population explosion in the Crown of Thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef and other areas of the Pacific. This starfish fed on the coral polyps, destroying large areas of the reef. Many methods were tried to control them, but none seemed to really work. Then suddenly, for no known reason the Crown of Thorns just stared dying off. Many species go through cycles like this. It’s natures way of control things. We humans use have used wars for thousands of years to control the human population. Could it be we are the cause of this?

  58. sakumasa
    US
    September 14, 2013, 8:08 pm

    didn’t he say not to jump to conclusions? many of us have already jumped to radiation without him even mentioning it. if he had, would this be case closed? I’m sure that they have already thought of radiation as a possible reason. i’d like to see what tests they have already performed (if any), and other plans. if it’s really caused by radiation, starfish wouldn’t be the only ones affected

  59. Beefydog
    KY
    September 14, 2013, 8:05 pm

    Radiation, perhaps? Remnants of the Exxon Valdez oil spill – most likely – that mess is still there – only about 10% was ever cleaned up. Multiple species were found with greatly weakened immune systems LONG before Fukashima.
    How quickly people forget the 2nd worst oil spill in history and the devastation it causes to this day.

  60. billy
    September 14, 2013, 8:01 pm

    All you folks saying Fukushima do realize that this die-off is happening on the EAST COAST right? One would think that such a die off would be happening on the West Coast if it were related to Fukushima’s radiation. It amazes me that every comment here is related to God or Fukushima, yet you folks read National Geographic. Troubling….

  61. Peggy O
    Sooke, Vancouver Island , BC
    September 14, 2013, 7:54 pm

    We already have garbage here from the tsunami , so why wouldn’t the radiation be here too.. so sickening..

  62. Rory
    September 13, 2013, 3:58 pm

    Good to see so many people waking up and aware of Fukushima. Sad to see however that it is an unstoppable Armageddon machine. Take it to its logical conclusion.. We have BP wiping out one ocean and Fuku wiping out another. Think about how many organisms there must be in those waters, big and small.. They’re all going to die. And decompose. That’s a lot of methane we’re talking about. It will change the composition of the ocean, the atmosphere, it will even change the weather. And when all of us humans become to sick to maintain “control” of the nuclear reactors of the world, they will all meltdown and/or explode in their own time. It truly is the endgame, you can’t sweep it under the rug anymore.

  63. Amicus curiae
    September 13, 2013, 11:34 am

    if it isnt radiation from fuku, but i a handy parasite?
    we could do with it IF it kills off Crown of thorns variety, the Gbarrier reefs had those mongrels ripping it up for years, be wonderful to have something to kill them off for us.

  64. mis amigos
    September 13, 2013, 5:56 am

    Fukushima shouldn’t be causing the problem on the East coast.

  65. Calabash
    USA
    September 13, 2013, 2:16 am

    I forgot to mention in my previous comment that my immediate big fear is that we are going to lose Japan and the Japanese populace. Japan should be vacating half the island already. Does anyone else fear the same, or am I over-radiating the problem?

  66. Diadema A.
    United State
    September 13, 2013, 2:02 am

    Radiation? Really? The radiation has only harmed one specie of starfish but all the surrounding organisms are fine. It must have been the radiation from Fukushima that cause the mass die off of Long-spined Sea Urchins in 1983 in the Caribbean that wiped out 97% of the population as well. I was not aware that the radiation from Fukushima was able to time travel.

  67. Calabash
    USA
    September 13, 2013, 2:02 am

    While radiation will certainly take its toll if it isn’t remedied soon, Fukushima cannot be the sole cause of the various dieoffs around the world. Before Fuku, blackbirds were falling from the sky and dolphins were beaching themselves, etc. etc. etc. Fuku would not be so descriminate; i.e., a variety of species would die together, whatever fish were in a particular vicinity, and not just one or two species at a time. Location would be the determining factor, not species, if the cause was Fuku. But only starfish die, or only dolphins die, or only shark die, or only elk die, or only cows die, just one type of animal in any single incident. No, at this time it is not Fukushima, but spreading radiation will be at least partly to blame for dying sea life in particular locations soon enough. It won’t be long and we will need to stop eating seafood for our own protection.

  68. Sonja Jensen
    Vancouver
    September 12, 2013, 8:46 pm

    I saw this same thing in Tofino a couple of weeks ago…

  69. Kathy
    Tucson, Arizona
    September 12, 2013, 7:26 pm

    Elaine, you said it like no other….exactly what is happening. Every time I read something like this I think about JUDGEMENT of God upon the earth. The animals, birds, bees, are a big evidence of this judgement, in their dying for no reason seen. Drought, wild fires without end are going to continue and grow.

    And we are NOT WARMING we are COOLING! There is 60% greater ice fields in the Artic than 2 years ago.

  70. Paul Magnus
    Canada
    September 12, 2013, 6:15 pm

    Yikes! I hope we aren’t susceptible to something like this!
    Deeply Disturbing.

  71. George
    Georgia
    September 12, 2013, 6:15 pm

    Oh Please all the bomb test NPP and the Little Radiation Leak in Japan. Only in the State of Georgia are they Stupid enough to build a new NPP at all… Let alone… But to put it next to a old one so Stupid…. PLEASE THINK of THE CHILDREN

  72. abinico warez
    Northern CA
    September 12, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Stupid scientists – smart public knows it is Fukashima contamination.

  73. dr cindy mason
    california
    September 12, 2013, 6:06 pm

    Over the past 2-3 years many countries have reported in news programs massive die offs of a variety of species. I have talked with geologists, oceanographers and space scientists, and the 10 second answer is, anything that affects that many species across rivers, sky and sea, is probably related to the magnetic fields.

  74. SayWhat
    September 12, 2013, 5:55 pm

    RADIATION IN THE PACIFIC FROM FUKUSHIMA.

  75. Steven
    September 12, 2013, 4:25 pm

    Two things:
    1. The governments policy of raising the safe exposure limit and shutting down radiation monitoring is obviously criminal.
    2. The starfish and othe affected marine life ought to be checked for radio isotopes by interested persons and agencies and the findings made public. If nessesary many independant tests should be done on the same sample and independantly released to the public just to keep the process honest. No matter what no one can trust the government, ever!

  76. Steven
    September 12, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Two things:
    1.

  77. Jayson
    Seattle
    September 12, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Fukushima would explain what is happening in the Pacific, not the Atlantic. It has been noted that polar melting has had an affect on the planet worldwide. I am not a scientist, so this may not be a great theory, but… Could it be that subtle changes in temperature or salination levels caused by melt provided an opportunity? Perhaps a disease developed in these conditions, and then spread from there?

  78. Craig
    Vancouver
    September 12, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Allow me to post the only rational comment and say radiation to show up on the sea floor would produce cancer and legions – not arms falling off. People – please use science and facts and stop conjecture and bible prophesies.

  79. Elaine Wiggins
    California
    September 12, 2013, 2:53 pm

    Not only starfish and dolfins are dying in the sea but birds are also falling from the sky dead!
    God tells us WHY this is happening in the Bible in Hosea 4:1-3 “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowlegment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying. Also read Ezekiel 38:20 and Zephaniah 1:3 and Revelation 8:9—-(fish in the sea die.)
    This is only the beginning of God’s Judgment on the earth. Receive (Yahshua, His Jewish name) —Jesus as your savior to be protected from all that is to come!
    Read John 3:16 and be saved—Today!

  80. w piitz
    mississauga, ontario
    September 12, 2013, 12:44 pm

    could it be the radiation caused by Fukushima? They’re
    predicting it to hit our coast in 2014. What’s to say it isn’t
    here right now and this is just the beginning. So sad.

  81. Lo
    Eugene, OR
    September 12, 2013, 12:23 pm

    The OUTRAGE for me is the COMPLICITY OF THE SO CALLED SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, unwilling to even mention radiation, the obvious answer.
    All the articles written about Fuku radiation ojnly speak to cesium or tritum, NEVER mentioning plutonium. Where there is cesium (short life) there is plutonium (long life).
    It’s sad that scientific community is only concerned about protecting the profits of the nuclear industry instead of our planet.

  82. Miriam
    British Columbia
    September 12, 2013, 11:49 am

    Why are the scientists baffled? Wouldn’t they know we are at two years of constant radiation from Fukoshima????? duhhhh

  83. Murray Hassard
    Oakville, Ontario Canada
    September 12, 2013, 11:25 am

    Use a Geiger counter.

  84. Cassandra
    N.C.
    September 12, 2013, 11:16 am

    test them for radiation == fuk-us-hima…

  85. Adam Evenson
    Opp, AL
    September 12, 2013, 10:28 am

    How could any massive species die-off in the ocean baffle anybody, especially scientists? Humankind has succeeded in poisoning the entire planet, particularly the oceans. Think about only two incidents of many: Fukushima nuclear radiation spreading over the whole planet, and the Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Fukushima, alone, is enough to fill any “massive ocean species die-off” bill. Humankind has lost its mind.

  86. Vitharr krom
    USA
    September 12, 2013, 9:07 am

    The star fish die off is probably due to higher levels of radiation
    Finally reaching the coast line from the fukushima disaster.
    Arent star fish extremly sensitive to changes in thier envinorment? How many other sea creatures are you finding dead out there? I know no one needs to get excited but the facts are a out a year ago fukushima released 130 million gallons of radioactive water straight into the ocean, directly across from california. I found it on you tube. I think the radioactive isotope is cesisum 134 i think, not sure. But its worth running a test to see what the levels are.

  87. Bill
    September 12, 2013, 7:21 am

    Fukushima – nuff said. This is going to kill all of us if they do not do something last year about this. . .

  88. Stephanie Enson
    United Kingdom
    September 12, 2013, 6:14 am

    Fukushima radiation- and I am surprised your article does not make any reference to this as even a remotely possible cause- given the scale of this disaster and the amount of radio active water pouring into into the Pacific ocean on a daily basis.

  89. Belle Fox
    Sebastopol,CA
    September 12, 2013, 1:26 am

    It completely baffles me with radiation from Fukishima, Japan. They have been dumping radioactive waste in the ocean from there since the beginning in 2011, March. Anyone who speaks out is put in prison, but already has radiation sickness, the whole country. It is worse than Chernobyle. Too many horror stories. We have seal die-off in San Diego.

  90. Citizen Perth
    Australia
    September 11, 2013, 9:03 pm

    The whole Fukushima incident has lead to a lot of baffled Scientists lately…

  91. Dora Crystal Solis
    Superior,AZ
    September 11, 2013, 8:59 pm

    Well it does say in the Bible that a third of the sea creatures will be dying out. I wonder if its starting?? And what about whales dolohins other sea animals suddenly beaching themselves?? And the dead fish in Brazil??

  92. Sheryl Senkiw
    USA
    September 11, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Considering the massive amounts of radioactive material the melting down, leaking nuclear reactors have been putting into the ocean for two and a half years, that would be my first guess.

  93. imagoddess2
    United States
    September 11, 2013, 6:06 pm

    I agree that it is probably Fukushima! Readings are too high even here in the States, and they CONTINUE TO RAISE THE ACCEPTABLE levels! Our great Pacific Ocean is done…it will never be the same nor will the rest of the world and all it’s inhabitants!

  94. Meghan
    Ontario, Canada
    September 11, 2013, 5:20 pm

    My guess is radiation from Fukushima. :(

  95. Rory
    September 11, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Toxic radiation from the ongoing triple meltdown at Fukushima in Japan. You can expect everything in the ocean to suffer the same. Remember the seals in Alaska? Fukushima is the radioactive death of the entire ocean, and soon the land will follow.

  96. China Brotherson
    United States
    September 11, 2013, 1:12 am

    Yes, I agree with Reggie, Fukashima radioactivleaks, in pacific seas

  97. Ginny
    U.S.
    September 10, 2013, 1:08 pm

    Everything seems to be changing in our environment. With all the oil spills, radiation, chemicals from drainage…there is no telling. I am a diver also. The difference in the Reef in FL, now as opposed to when I started in 1997 is frightening. We are slowly killing ourselves. The planet will be here long after we are gone.

  98. Ima Ryma
    September 10, 2013, 6:06 am

    Live in seas and shaped like a star,
    For ages we were called starfish.
    But not a fish, so now we are
    Called a sea star – do you kapish?
    But now we’re losing limbs a lot.
    Humans are speculating why.
    Maybe a parasite we’ve got,
    Eating away until we die.
    Who knows what’s causing loss of limb.
    Humans are number one to blame.
    But the situation is grim.
    How will humans call us by name?

    No longer star shaped do we be,
    So guess you can just call us sea!

  99. ReggieJ
    Korea
    September 10, 2013, 1:53 am

    Radiation spreading from Fukushima

  100. Kevin Wratt
    New Zealand
    September 9, 2013, 10:52 pm

    Perhaps it is just part of the cycle of life. Virus or parasitic attack to a large population ? Once low numbers are reached and populations become isolated one from another then perhaps the species in this area will survive. Alternatively, are we witness to a pending extinction?

  101. Parul Kaster
    United States
    September 9, 2013, 10:05 pm

    Could it be rlated to the explosion in Giant Squid population.

  102. dtb1999
    September 9, 2013, 9:56 pm

    i believe that it’s just like the dolphins that were dying off recently. It’s probably a disease that was transferred when the starfish ate prey and it wasn’t immune to the disease.