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Starfish off Haida Gwaii may be infected with wasting disease

A virus that has decimated starfish populations from California to Alaska may now be on Haida Gwaii.

Starfish that have the same appearance as those infected with a densovirus have been found off the southeast coast of the islands.

Samples have been sent to the Vancouver Aquarium determine if it is the same starfish wasting disease that destroyed populations in recent years.

Aggie Cangardel is a Marine Biologist for the Council of the Haida Nation.

She says starfish are a keystone predator species and play an important part in the ecosystem by regulating populations of other animals.

While the virus is known to be in the water, it’s unknown what’s making it suddenly so deadly to starfish.

She says it’s unknown why the virus spread to Haida Gwaii last, but adds it was inevitable since the virus is water borne.

 

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