I think that boaters, divers and others who are able to spend time on or in the water are lucky for many reasons, but especially because we have the opportunity to see nature very close up, very vividly.
For the most part, this vividness is a good thing. You can see and experience a variety of interesting and beautiful things – sea life, shore birds and marine mammals, to name a few. The downside is that you may also have a close-up view to pollution, debris, death and decay. And, unfortunately, sometimes these two are inseparable, intertwined.
I mentioned in my last blog post that sea star (starfish) populations have drastically declined here, and it turns out that the problem extends far beyond my community in Seattle. Sea star populations up and down the west coast in both the US and Canada, as well as in locations along the east coast, have been ravaged by a gruesome disease that is now known as Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Experts say that it is caused by a virus that is not new; what has changed to trigger this massive outbreak and die-off is not yet fully known.
An observant member of our local dive community, Laura James, aka “Diver Laura”, first noticed that the sea stars were mysteriously dying a couple of years ago. She began to raise the issue publically. She also took steps to photograph, film and document what she saw under water, ask questions of scientists, and she has continued to raise visibility to the problem. Earlier this month, she received an Emmy award for this video that was created for our public TV channel.
As I’ve followed this issue in our local media, it’s been interesting to see how technology is playing an important role. Underwater robots (ROVS) have been used, as they can get into smaller spaces than an adult diver. Crowdsourcing and mapping technology now allows the public to contribute observations and location information via this website using hashtags. Diver Laura and others here hope that additional information from fellow divers, boaters, and those who spend time on the beaches will help further scope the problem.
While a bleak situation, I’m encouraged to see so many people coming together to seek solutions and continue building awareness. Are you able to help?