It was a minus tide so we could walk to Octopus Rock. Unfortunately we did not see any octopus this year or any of what we call 'starfish'. Typically we would see at least a few. There have been some with signs of sea star wasting disease in past years. You can see this in the related post. Usually the intertidal rocks are teaming with invertebrates. There were snails and barnacles (nice to see) but little in the way of bidarkies or mussels. We were not the only ones who noticed the change. Another tide pooler we met made the same observation. I guess the rocks all look a little vacant, with a lot of space not being inhabited. It would be really interesting to learn what Mike Opheim at Seldovia Tribe and Kris Holdreid from Kasitsna Bay Lab are seeing and finding.
Michael Opheim, Environmental Coordinator for Seldovia Village Tribe, writes:
We just completed our annual culture camp this past Friday. On Thursday we went to Jakolof specifically for tidepooling. We found a number of starfish aka sea stars around the Jakolof boat harbor. None appeared to be suffering from the wasting disease. Some of them were looking healthy and had good size to them. I think someone else had mentioned to me that they had not seen any baby starfish which is something they said they usually saw. The outside beach where I usually harvest Bidarki’s has had more large Bidarki’s than small which hasn’t been the case the last couple years. So I wonder if there is a bounce back happening. I know I hadn’t seen any of the big sunflower starfish or anything like that at the outside beach or maybe they were just not where I was at out there. There seems to be a bit of a bounce back on the octopus in the Jakolof area, or there was till I heard of 5 being harvested from out there during the last low tide cycle. I don’t think they had any size to them but they were there. Blue mussels in the area have not had any real size to them for some time now. I do seem to be seeing more of them as I am out walking around now so maybe they will get some size to them again. We have even seen larger sea urchin lately. I was pretty happy to see that. The past few years I have seen many more cockles on the clam beaches as well. It is really nice to see those bouncing back. One of the species found on our tidepooling day at culture camp was a California sea cucumber. I did not know we had them but have seen a number of posts on Facebook recently with people finding them.
Mike's observations are consistent with what is being seen in the recent intertidal survey done from our NOAA Kasitsna Bay Lab as part of the Gulf Watch Alaska long-term ecosystem monitoring program (funded by the EVOS Trustee Council). Numbers of sea stars in the intertidal were still low, but more stars were found this year at deeper depths and there are reports of more stars in some nearshore locations too, which is encouraging. Dr. Brenda Konar, with UAF, led the Kachemak Bay survey and she and Dominic Hondolero did a recent radio interview on KBBI about the sea stars. I've attached a transcript of that story here (see documents).
Thanks for your observations and interest in the intertidal ecosystem!
Comments from LEO Editors:
This observation has been forwarded to other LEO Members in nearby communities. If you have an observation of tidal ecosystem trends in your area, please leave a comment in this post.