The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is getting close to listing the Sunflower Sea Star as a “threatened” species.
In August 2021, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned NMFS to list the Sunflower Sea Star as a threatened or endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act.
Since 2013, 90% of the Pacific population of these sea stars has been lost to a gruesome and disfiguring sea star wasting disease, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The disease outbreak is being driven by climate change, with warmer oceans making the effects more severe and deadly.
In a notice published this week, NMFS said:
“Based on the best scientific and commercial information available, including the draft status review report, and after taking into account efforts being made to protect the species, we have determined that the sunflower sea star is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout its range. Therefore, we propose to list the sunflower sea star as a threatened species under the ESA.”
Should the government finalize the listing, any protective regulations would be issued at a later date, according to NMFS.
The notice adds:
“We do not propose to designate critical habitat at this time because it is not currently determinable. We are soliciting information to inform our final listing determination, as well as the development of potential protective regulations and critical habitat designation.”
NMFS is asking for public comments on the listing over the next 60 days and will finalize the listing in a year.
The Center for Biological Diversity welcomed the move, with Miyoko Sakashita, the organization’s oceans program director, saying:
“Protection under the Endangered Species Act will be so important for reviving these incredible sea stars. Disease fueled by climate change has devastated this gorgeous species, and these safeguards will help tackle threats to their survival and promote the health of the kelp forests they live in.”
Check out the full notice here.