Friends of Haystack Rock
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This month's Creature Feature
Sea Star
Pisaster Ochraceus 
Photo courtesy of Haystack Rock Awareness Program
Picture in your mind a sea star. If you're like most people, you'll have just imagined the archetypal five rayed star. Did you know, however, that there are over 1,900 separate species of sea stars worldwide? They live in all oceans and at all depths. It may now come as less of a surprise to learn that the Pacific Northwest is home to over 30 varieties of sea star. In fact, Haystack Rock alone is home to over 10 different species!

Sea stars generally roam the intertidal zones, and will readily consume almost every type of prey. The menu for a sea star thus includes sponges, snails, clams, mussels, barnacles, sea cucumbers, sea anemones, scallops, fishes, and even unfortunate sea-birds.   Technically, sea stars have no brain or central nervous system. Instead, a ring of nerves in their center connects to radial nerves, which then join a broad network of nerve-cells scattered throughout their skin.  

Relatively little is known about the sea stars' lifespan. What we do know is that once mature, their rigid calcareous skeleton makes them unattractive to most would-be predators. Along with the occasional starving gull, one of their most dangerous adversaries is their fellow sea star.   
In 2013, sea stars along the Pacific West Coast from Alaska to California (yes, this includes Haystack Rock!), were affected by a deadly virus. The virus in turn caused what biologists have termed 'sea star wasting syndrome'. Incidentally, almost all of the sea stars at Haystack Rock disappeared. The virus is believed to be associated with a genus of virus called densovirus, which causes lesions to appear on the surface of sea stars. The tissues surrounding the lesions decay, which leads to fragmentation of the star's body, and eventual death.

In regards to Haystack Rock, the scenario presented an opportunity to collect and utilize data. Since 2014, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program has been conducting sea star surveys following the parameters and sampling methods set by MARINe (Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network). Surveying is done at Haystack Rock four times annually, in July, October, January, and April. All the collected data is then used by MARINe to evaluate sea star populations and occurrence of the wasting disease.

So what have we seen? A come back! In November 2014, sea star wasting syndrome was affecting approximately 60% of the sea stars in the intertidal areas along the West coast. In the most recent surveys, only around 10% of the sea stars appear to be affected. We are seeing more and more juvenile sea stars enter into our intertidal zone at Haystack Rock; and each time we conduct a monitoring, there are fewer adult stars showing symptoms of the disease.   We would like to sincerely thank you for your continued support, because without you we wouldn't be able to monitor and help protect our delicate marine garden in ways like these. Thank you!
Photo courtesy of Haystack Rock Awareness Program

Dear Friend of Haystack Rock,

Our mission on the beach is promoting the preservation and protection of the intertidal life and birds that inhabit the Marine Garden and the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock. This undertaking took on new meaning after the Sea Star Wasting event of 2014.

As many of you are aware, Sea stars suffered a major decline in 2014. HRAP helped scientists and marine monitors gather vital information during and after the most devastating part of this event.

We are happy to report that Sea stars made a good comeback in the summer of 2015 and are again easily seen clinging to the rocks around the tide line of Haystack Rock. It's easy to make the connection that HRAP helps keep this area in good shape so nature can works its wonder of healing when needed.

Ours is a grassroots effort to protect a vital marine ecosystem and attraction on the North Coast. Working with federal, state, county and city governance, as well as partnering with local businesses, other non-profits and environmental factions we strive to make our corner, your corner of the world a better place.

For over a decade, Friends of Haystack Rock (FOHR) has provided money towards staffing HRAP, printing brochures and providing informative lectures to the public. Haystack Rock will be here for a long time and will remain healthy under good stewardship-if you help us continue.
Friends of Haystack Rock is a 501 © (3) non-profit organization.  Your contribution is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

A Series of FREE Community Lectures
at Cannon Beach Library
Held the 2nd Wednesday of each month
Friends of Haystack Rock is a non-profit organization that provides guidance and financial support for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) in cooperation with the City of Cannon Beach promoting the preservation and protection of the intertidal life and birds that inhabit the Marine Garden and the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock.
Friends of Haystack Rock is guided by a volunteer board of directors and advisors consisting of committed community members.

Friends of Haystack Rock
PO Box 1222
Cannon Beach, OR 97110

Board Members: Stacy Benefield, Tracy Abel, Donna Greenwood, Susan Boac, Tiffany Boothe, Keith Chandler, Lori Fraser, and Claudine Rhen
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