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Aquarium looks for cause of sea star die-off

The mysterious disease that has caused widespread sea star die-offs in Puget Sound is now killing dozens of sea stars off the Oregon Coast.

Divers with the Oregon Coast Aquarium made the discovery during a survey recently that revealed 48 dead and dying sea stars in a 60-square-meter area in Yaquina Bay on Oregon’s central coast. The symptoms of wasting syndrome were seen in sunflower stars, ochre stars and giant pink stars.

Sea stars infected with the disease physically deteriorate before they die. In some cases, afflicted arms break off from the sea star’s body and walk away before dissolving completely. Scientists suspect a bacteria or virus is causing it, but they don’t know for sure. Until last week, there had only been a few cases reported in Oregon.

Erin Paxton, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Coast Aquarium, says divers had been conducting surveys in the ocean off the central Oregon coast since January, but they hadn’t found any afflicted sea stars until last week.

“They found, basically dead, melting animals,” Paxton says. “Their arms were curling up, they had signs of lesions or arms had detached and walked away from the bodies completely.”

Aquarium divers are planning additional surveys. “We just found it, so we don’t know how widespread it is yet,” Paxton says. “It is concerning. The species affected are widely regarded as a keystone species in the Oregon rocky reef ecosystem.”

— EarthFix

Portland neighborhoods set cleanups with SOLV

Get involved with your neighborhoods by registering online at solv.org/get-involved/events:

Montavilla Park Cleanup — Saturday, May 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Meet at the Montavilla Community Center Parking Lot, 8219 N.E. Glisan St. All ages are welcome and no tools are necessary. Clean up litter, wash graffiti and pull weeds in the Montavilla Park.

Northwest Portland Third-Saturday Cleanup — Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Devote one hour to creating a fresher neighborhood and participate in a coffee social afterward. Meet at 115 N.W. 22nd Ave. next to the Elephants Deli and Goodwill store. All ages are invited and volunteers should bring completed waivers and gloves for picking up litter and washing graffiti.

Willamette Riverbank Cleanup — Wednesday, May 21, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Marriott Hotels associates will join SOLVe in clearing litter from the Burnside Bridge to OMSI. Meet at at Southeast Water Avenue and Southeast Clay Street at the tent on the riverbank north of OMSI. After prettifying for three hours, celebrate with a BBQ and prize giveaway by Marriott Hotels.

Woodstock Cleanup — Saturday, May 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Meet at Woodstock Community Center, 5905 S.E. 43rd Ave. to collect garbage, sweep sidewalks and plant flowers. Refreshments and tools will be supplied.