Cape Town - Volunteers and conservationists joined the Cape of Good Hope SPCA on a special mission to rescue and release more than 500 beached starfish washed ashore along Clovelly Beach near Fish Hoek last week.
Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said they could not pin-point the reason for the Spiny Sea Stars washing ashore.
The most probable explanation was that it was the result of a combination of factors such as their natural breeding behaviour which coincides with spring tides, some red tide in the Bay, a sudden increase in water temperature, or a new pollutant that is in the sea, Abraham said.
The last mass walk-out of Spiny Sea Stars in these waters occurred in September 2020, Abraham added.
At the time a sudden increase in water temperature caused a number of species to strand, including jellyfish, puffer fish and even sea snakes.
Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse said: “We are grateful that someone called on us to assist and that we found so many people ready to help on the beach.
“We are encouraged that so many saw the suffering of a living creature and that they were not disregarded as ‘just Sea Stars’.”
Pieterse said they had to act quickly as the conditions were less than ideal but they saw so many people come together to see the Sea Stars safely back in the water.
Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said if they were left on the beach, they would die and if they were not returned to deep enough waters, they would probably wash out again.
“They had to be kept in buckets of salt water, and transported by boat to deeper waters in Simon’s Town to be released. It was raining and rather windy as well which made rescue conditions a little more challenging,” said Abrahams.
Abrahams thanked all the willing hands who came to assist so readily, including Captain Dave Hurwitz of the Simon’s Town Boat Company who assisted them with the transport of the fish to a suitable release site.
“Sea Stars play an important role in our marine ecosystems and it was important to rescue as many of them as possible,” said Abrahams.