Monday, October 21, 2013

Fogtober and Sea Star Epidemic

Yep, we had a good Fogust and September, even with some rain spells. Now we're half-past Fogtober, and all the trees around the shorelines have been changing colours. Marvelous!
The last few days I've been on the water only a couple of times, six days apart. Augh! Withdrawal is tough, so I guess I am indeed hooked on kayaking. It's been foggy and breezy all that time, with an inversion holding foggy weather along the coast.

The payoff for foggy weather is that the fish come up to the surface, and otters come out to catch them. There was a family of otters out in Cadboro Bay on the weekend, blithely and lithely slithering around a school of fish. The otter's round heads bobbed in the smooth water that was barely wrinkled. When their tails flickered for a dive, the little splash showed for hundreds of yards (metres). It's great to paddle a quiet boat, quieter and slower than the zodiacs and motorboats that zoom around the little training yachts sailing in the bay.

I was glad to be on the water again. Lately, I've been jealous of the Gecko Paddlers and their casual outings to Race Rocks... but then, last week at a meeting with other university people studying digital humanities, a tenure-track professor looked enviously at me because last year I paddled down the Red Deer river, solo river camping. So, envy is a relative thing. I'll just go kayaking when and where I can, and let envy be a good servant rather than a poor master, eh?

This photo is from Vancouver Aquarium' AquaBlog
And meanwhile, it's time for paddlers in the Salish Sea area to go out and look for sea stars. Check on the health of the starfish in your home waters, folks. The sea stars in Howe Sound seem to be suffering from some disease. Click here for an article by Vancouver Aquarium on the die-off.

Not all sea star types are affected, as the leather and bat and blood stars seem to be doing well. The large sunflower sea stars are particularly badly affected. Instead of looking plump and full-fleshed, the sick starfish are emaciated. If you see sea stars looking like the one in this photo, or just decaying on the sea bottom, leave a comment on Vancouver Aquarium's blog. Photos are helpful! Biologists trying to take affected animals for tests are appalled to find nothing but a bucket of goo by the time they get a sick starfish to the laboratory. Divers are also looking in Saanich Inlet to see if there are similar problems here across the strait.

Areas in the Salish Sea have been affected by high populations of sea stars and sea urchins over the last several years, to the point where entire kelp forests are being eaten. I wonder if river otters and sea otters will be able to find plenty of urchins to eat, and thus maintain the kelp forests that sustain diverse shoreline life.

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