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Sea star wasting syndrome may have spread to Canada

Sea star disease may have infiltrated Haida Gwaii

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 2:16 PM - A disease that has wiped out sea star populations in parts of the U.S., Mexico and Canada may have made its way into nor B.C waters near Haida Gwaii.

While the disease has been found in B.C. waters before, this would be the first time it has been found in northern B.C. waters.

Samples of sea stars thought to be infected have been sent to the Vancouver Aquarium for study.

Last May, the disease -- which causes sea stars to disintegrate -- was linked to a pathogen, but researches also believe 'sea star wasting syndrome' may have something to do with warming oceans, which could be allowing the disease to spread.

Scientists say it could be compromising the immune systems of the sea stars as well, making them more susceptible to other infections.

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Millions of sea stars have died from the disease, which was first reported in August 2013 upon the grim discovery that sea stars were disintegrating on the ocean floor, turning into "goo" by the time they reached the lab for analysis.

Donna Gibbs, a research diver and taxonomist, told The Canadian Press at the time the epidemic spread like "wildfire" and "just wiped (sea stars) out."

In some areas, however, populations appear to be rebounding.

According to the CBC, divers in Nanaimo have reported an increase in the creatures.

"They're starting to see more young sea stars, more live sea stars," Brian Kingzett, manager of the field station at Vancouver Island University's Deep Bay Marine Field Station, told the CBC.

"It may be just like other disease epidemics where the animals that were infected have all died off and now new ones are replacing them."

Source: CBC

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