Dead starfish in Vancouver waters puzzle scientists
Remains found in waters near Whytecliff Park and Kelvin Grove
A B.C. marine scientist, who has found dozens of dead starfish in Vancouver waters, is hoping international experts can help figure out what's killing the invertebrates.
Jonathan Martin usually studies fish, but on a diving trip earlier this month near Whytecliffe Park, he noticed dozens of dead starfish in the water.
The starfish, also known as sea stars, looked deflated, and many had lost limbs.
Martin says he isn't sure what's causing the die-off, but speculates a population boom could be a factor because an increased population leads to increased competition for food and also heightens the impact of disease.
Martin has reached out to other marine scientists around the world to help solve the mystery, including Christopher Mah, a research collaborator with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.
In his blog, Mah writes the die-off appears to be similar to starfish wasting disease.
UBC Zoologist Chris Harley said he believes the weather is to blame.
"You can see a little bit of shimmer in the water. We get that when salty water mixes with fresh water. So if a lot of rain has just fallen... that'll mix in with the sea water," he said.
"That might be the smoking gun for as to why they were dying. The sea stars are really, really bad dealing with fresh water."
Martin recently shot a video (posted below) at the dive site near Kelvin Grove, and says similar scenes have been noted at Whytecliff Park and other popular dive sites.
Samples of the dead starfish have been sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for testing.
With files from the CBC's Elaine Chau