The outbreak of sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) that began in 2013 devastated many species of sea stars along the North American West Coast. While the outbreak has abated, the disease persists. While there are signs of recovery for some species or local populations, there are entire species and regions that have not recovered. This is especially important because many sea stars species are major predators, and ecosystem-level changes have already been observed.
In response to the disease, PISCO scientists and many other researchers have assembled a Sea Star Wasting Task Force. The Task Force has drafted a strategic action plan to identify research and management priorities to address sea star wasting syndrome. They have formed the four working groups below, each of which has outlined research goals and accompanying action items to advance our knowledge of SSWS and promote recovery, where possible. Next steps include inviting stakeholder input to this plan and mobilizing scientists to execute the action items.
1) Diagnostics and Epidemiology focuses on the pathogenesis and etiology of SSWS, which remains largely unknown.
2) Surveillance and Ecology aims to maintain a monitoring network for future outbreaks of SSWS and to track population recovery, They also will investigate potential causes and study the consequences for marine communities.
3) Management, Conservation, and Recovery will identify populations and species at highest risk, create appropriate recovery plans, and craft a socioeconomic impact report.
4) Communication, Outreach, and Citizen Science will create a communication network among scientists, stakeholders, the public and policymakers. They also coordinate citizen science efforts.