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Underwater Footage Reveals ‘Melting’ Sea Star Epidemic

Newly released underwater footage from the Pacific Northwest reveals the true extent of the melting sea star epidemic currently spreading along the west coast of North America.

Dead/Dying seastars in West Seattle (with opening footage to show same site last year) from Laura James on Vimeo.

Following the discovery of melting Sunflower sea stars off the coast of California, Washington state and Canada, videographer and underwater explorer Laura James uncovered well over 100 dead sea stars washed up on the beach in West Seattle’s Brace Point area earlier this month. After diving into the water to investigate, James reveals to Storyleak just how devastating the die-off has become.

“I’d heard that the sea stars were dying en mass but this was beyond my imagination,” James said. “It was like carnage or a mass grave. Dead and dying sea stars, body on top of body.”

James’ footage, which begins by showing unaffected sea starts in the same area a year prior, reveals that multiple sea star species have begun to literally disintegrate, despite earlier reports of only one species being affected.

“The Sunflower sea stars were the first to die, and it happened very fast. The Ochre and Mottled sea stars are now dying and these are the bodies you see piling up,” James said.

All stages of the melting process can be seen throughout the footage, beginning with a strange loss of coordination and inability to grasp onto objects, before the insides and limbs begin to fall apart, adding to the numerous white piles of melted sea star remains.

“As we were swimming along we also noted torn off legs from Sunflower stars strewn about, like the starfish had just been cruising along and one leg after another stopped working,” James said.

Controlled experiments in the late 1960s, which removed sea stars from Washington state’s Mukkaw Bay, produced a dramatic decrease in species diversity as hypothesized. Given the sea stars’ now evident role as a keystone species linked to maintaining ecological balance, many worry the die-off could begin the chain reaction, massively devastating the biodiversity of the entire west coast.

“The key here is citizen scientists helping to do the wide spread documentation and an involved public that can make its voice heard, push for answers, and not let this just become yesterdays news,” James said.

Although the cause has yet to be determined, speculations now range from a simple disease or parasite to the continued dumping of hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Unexplained sicknesses and death from species all across the west coast since the beginning of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster have increased the public’s fear that the situation’s true danger is being kept under wraps.

As far back as early 2012, nuclear radiation from the Fukushima power plant was being detected in bluefin tuna off California’s coast. Months earlier, cesium-137 was being found in almost all Japanese seafood being sold in Canada, with 100 percent of seaweed, carp, monkfish and shark showing detectable levels. Even with Japanese scientists finding high cesium levels in plankton all across the Pacific, the FDA has continued to claim that there is no need to test any seafood.

August of this year, Canadian biologists near Vancouver Island discovered herring bleeding out of their eyes and gill, while members of Canada’s aboriginal community began simultaneously reporting historically low Skeena River sockeye salmon returns.

“We hope to get out and document more sites… so we can also document the changes in biodiversity that are likely to occur,” James said in closing.

As the melting sea star phenomenon continues its downward trend, James plans to continue her research in hopes that others will join.

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About Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is an investigative journalist covering foreign policy, information security and digital surveillance. His reports have been cited by sites such as the New York Times, Computerworld, International Business Times and the Drudge Report. How to contact Mikael securely:

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  1. is this a promo for fukushima? the cedar and other trees are dying also in the span of one year. what's up with the chem spraying dingoberry?

  2. Has Fukushima radiation reached the places where the melting is happening? Is there radioactive testing on the carcasses?

    I would love to see the connection laid out and the dots connected so that it can't be refuted.

    • Radiation has been detected all along the west coast since at least 2011. Currently several of the Sunflower sea stars from Canada and other areas of Washington are being tested in labs on the east coast. Apparently it could take weeks or months to get the results.

    • I couldnt even watch passed two mins, just brought tears to my eyes and made me sick to my stomach. Truly disgusting that this vile and repugnant excuse for a government too, is just going to downplay all of it and keep vomiting up the same excuses that ‘everything is fine’ when it clearly is not fine.

      But then again, these are just part of the signs JC warned about…in the end, its all inevitable.

    • One. This looks nothing like radiation poisoning. Two, any radiation strong enough to kill sea stars would make your oceans glow blue at night, and would kill any human entering the water in about 30 minutes.

  3. I dove and witnessed the before regions. If this is occurring now, it is horrifying! Something must be done

  4. What else could it be from?

    • شكرا اخي فعلا موضوع جميل ويستحق المتابعة وبهذه المناسبة اريد ان اقدم لكم موقع جديد يتضمن العاب بنات فهذه الالعاب جد رائعة ومنها العاب بنات مكياج وكذلك العاب بنات جديدة و العاب طبخ و العاب بنات كبار وصغار ايضا وعدة انواع اخرى سندعم تكتشفونها انتم هيا الان انضموا الينا في افضل موقع العاب بنات في العالم العربي .

  5. There is no doubt this is from fukishima , its truly unreal that cleaning that site up asap is not the priority of every government on this planet, using every resource possible. this is a crime , and it just continues to be covered up just like everything else in government. sickening, our children will be next!

    • Invertebrates are thousands of times more resistant to radiation than humans. If Fukashima were causing this, every diver off the west coast would be dead thirty minutes after going into the water.

      The anti nuclear crowd are some of the most ignorant bigmouths you'll ever meet. You can pretty much guarantee the truth being 100% opposite of anything they say.

      • Ah. It must be just coincidence, eh?

        Consider though, the diver doesn't have total skin contact with the water, and he's not IN the water 24/7. He breathes air from a tank – not radiation-contaminated water. His diet doesn't consist 100% of other organisms also living 24/7 in the water.

        Consider also: You have divided the community in two: the pro and anti-nuclear crowd, and you have labelled the side YOU disagree with as "ignorant bigmouths". Well, in lioght of the ongoing and worsening disaster that is Fukushima, the still ongoing disaster of Chernobyl, and the current nuclear waste disaster in America, what a pity it is that the ignorant bigmouths weren't listened to sooner!

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  8. Thank you for the article. I'm from austria so excuse my imperfect writing grammarwise… I'm trying to read as much as pissible about this development in california and i wonder: it all those people on the west coast are so concerned about the higher radiation levels why isnt there more information about how ecactly people from villages and cities near fukushima/daichii have reacted in the last 2 years? I mean all this radiation made its way through the pacific ocean, i get that…. But why arent people in california (or professionals, scientists) comparing it to the effects in the coastal area around fukushima! Wouldnt that be a pretty acurate comparison… Radiation wont hit th us westcoast as hard as japans coast though… Maybe someone could tell me something about that… Because I have not come across one article about fukushimas neighnourhood villages/cities… Thank you and all the best

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