The combination of ocean warming and an infectious wasting disease has devastated populations of large sunflower sea stars once abundant along the West Coast of North America in just a few years, according to a study co-led by the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University published Jan. 30 in the journal Science Advances.
“In California, Washington and parts of British Columbia, sunflower sea stars keep urchins under control,” said Joseph Gaydos, senior author on the paper and director of UC Davis’ SeaDoc Society program. “Without sunflower stars, urchin populations expand and threaten kelp forests and biodiversity. This cascading effect has a really big impact.”
Every year, the SeaDoc Society funds prominent scientists to conduct important research in the Salish Sea. Proposals for this year’s projects’ are due February 22 by 5pm. SeaDoc works to ensure the health of marine wildlife and their ecosystems through science and education and does not take policy positions nor serve in an advocacy role. This year the SeaDoc Society requests proposals only for projects that scientifically address one of the four priority topics below.
Herring are a small fish that play a big role up the food chain, and at the moment scientists don’t know nearly enough about their health status in the Salish Sea. That’s why SeaDoc funded a study that helped bring many top herring experts together for the first time–a crucial first step in ensuring their future.
The team recently published a report, “Assessment and Management of Pacific Herring in the Salish Sea: Conserving and Recovering a Culturally Significant and Ecologically Critical Component of the Food Web,” which included the creation of a model that simulated how herring populations respond to key environmental stressors under various scenarios.
For thousands of years, abalone provided food and shells for local tribes, only to be fished out by poachers and over-harvested due to poor management. Now they are functionally extinct, meaning there are so few they can’t find a mate and reproduce.
Despite a ban on harvest and the creation of a captive breeding program, remnant populations of pinto abalone are not reproducing in the wild and may be facing local extinction. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on a proposal to list the pinto abalone as a State Endangered Species.
Born and raised in Eastern Washington, far from saltwater of the Salish Sea, Jess didn’t discover her pull to the ocean until her first SCUBA course in Thailand 10 years ago. After that she was “hooked” and was soon on a path to becoming a SCUBA instructor in Egypt, an underwater photographer ready to share the awe and wonder with others, and a life that would evolve around this deep developed passion for our ocean.