Feiro Marine Life Center of Port Angeles seeks help for Sunday sea star survey

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Feiro Marine Life Center is seeking volunteers to help monitor a disease affecting sea stars on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The sea star wasting disease survey is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, with volunteers meeting at the Freshwater Bay boat ramp for training.

Volunteers will be told how to identify different sea stars and given instruction on conducting the survey, which is expected to take two or three hours, before spreading out to the east and west to look for infected sea stars.

“There will be marine biologists there so volunteers know what to look for,” said Deborah Moriarty, Feiro's executive director.

Participants will need flashlights, rubber boots and warm layered clothes.

In December, Feiro workers found two sea stars had been infected with sea star wasting disease in the touch tanks at the educational facility.

The infected sea stars are being kept in an isolation tank.

One continues to deteriorate, and the other seems to have improved, Moriarty said.

Sea star wasting disease, which causes sea stars to disintegrate into a white gooey substance, was first found on the West Coast at Starfish Point, not far from the Kalaloch region of Olympic National Park, Steve Fradkin, park ecologist, has said.

That was in June 2013.

Since then, cases of the disease have been confirmed from Alaska to San Diego.

Extensive infections that have nearly destroyed some local populations of sea stars have been found in the Strait of Georgia and in Puget Sound, and on the California and Alaska coastlines.

A brief survey of the area around Port Angeles on Nov. 29 revealed no infected sea stars.

But several dead sea stars were found in early January on beaches and rocks in the Port Angeles Harbor area, and they will be tested to determine whether their deaths were related to the sea star disease, Moriarty said.

For more information or to register, phone 360-808-4984.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 20. 2014 7:09PM
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