University of Oregon

Sea Stars in Trouble

Sea star wasting syndrome (SWS) has hit Oregon’s sea stars hard this past April and May (2014). Researchers and students at OIMB and ODFW have seen the number of sea stars disintegrating, displaying lesions, and discarding arms increase substantially within Coos Bay and both inter- and subtidally on our outer coast. Sea star wasting syndrome has swept though our seawater tanks, killing many of the sea stars kept for classes and research. We are not alone. SWS was documented in summer 2013 in Washington in the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound. Reports of SWS from Alaska and California soon followed. Until the last two months, documented cases of SWS were rare in Oregon (see Science May 2, 2014 article). We seem to be catching up, with massive die-offs of some of our most important top predators (e.g. ochre, sunflower stars and many others) in our near-shore marine communities. While the cause of SWS is unknown, researchers at Cornell and Brown University are working to discover the causative agent. Scientists at ODFW have been joining in the large-scale collaborative monitoring efforts put forth by researchers at University of California, Santa Cruz. For more information about SWS, including a map of the reported range, press releases, publications, and where to document SWS findings, please see

Charleston-Bridge-SWS Scott Groth ODFW corrected