To mark World Oceans Day, the Discovery Passage Aquarium is hosting a sea star survey at Willow Point Reef on June 8.
The project is aimed at bringing awareness to the biodiversity of marine organisms found in the community’s backyard. Specifically, the aquarium will be taking part in an inventory of sea stars in the area.
“We got out on to the beach…. to take inventory on the sea stars that we have at certain sites,” says aquarium manager Ricky Belanger. “We can report that data to a common database that researchers can then use to evaluate the status of sea stars regionally.”
The survey will also aid in research being done on sea star wasting syndrome. Sea stars – or starfish – on the Pacific Coast of North America have been facing a mysterious fatal wasting disease, which affected large numbers in 2013 and 2014. There had been similar outbreaks in previous decades though on smaller scale. According to an online article from the University of California Santa Cruz, the disease persists at lower levels and continues to kill off sea stars. Here, they have been plentiful in the past but have started declining, with other species such as green sea urchins moving into local waters.
“The ochre star and the sunflower sea star are both critically important keystone species,” Belanger adds.
The goal of World Oceans Day is to honor, protect and conserve oceans. The idea was proposed by the Government of Canada during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the United Nations officially recognized June 8 as World Oceans Day in 2008. Last year, the Discovery Passage Aquarium conducted a beach clean-up in conjunction with World Oceans Day.
This year, the aquarium staff and volunteers will also be cleaning up the beach as well as helping collect data for an inventory on sea stars in the reef area. They will also be discussing ways to reduce human impact on the oceans.
“We hope to educate and inspire people to protect our seas as well as have some fun on the reef,” says a release from the aquarium.
The staff encourage members of the public to join them on Saturday, July 8, at the Willow Point Reef starting at 2 p.m. for the World Oceans Day event. For more information about the Discovery Passage Aquarium, see http://discoverypassageaquarium.ca/ or the aquarium’s Facebook page.