Worst Ocean Mortality Event Ever Seen: Pathogen + Human-Caused Warming Likely Culprit in Mass Starfish Die-off


“A warmer world would be a sicker world. Under warming conditions a lot of microorganisms do better. They grow faster. They replicate faster. Many of our hosts can actually be stressed by warm conditions. And so it kind of creates a perfect storm of sickness.” — Drew Havell, Marine Epidemiologist in a recent interview with PBS.

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It first started in the tidal basins of Southern California during floods of warm water accompanying the El Nino of 1982-83. Laying dormant for more than two decades, it again surfaced during the super El Nino of 1997-98. A chronic wasting illness that obliterated whole sea star populations along the southwestern Pacific Coast, threatening numerous species. After each event, however, the starfish came back. But, today, recovery is not so certain.

By 2013 human-caused ocean warming had greatly advanced. With it came a flood of much hotter than usual…

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