The Cape of Good Hope SPCA rescued more than 500 starfish stranded on Clovelly Beach.
Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief inspector Jaco Pieterse and his team arrived at the beach on Wednesday January 5 where hundreds of starfish had washed up.
It was clear that most of the starfish were still alive, he said, and that meant that they had to be collected and relocated deeper out to sea as throwing them back in the water would result in them washing up again.
Armed with large plastic containers, Mr Pieterse and his team rolled up their trousers and waded into the water to collect as many starfish as possible.
Jon Friedman, from the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s wildlife department, said starfish were a key part of the False Bay ecosystem and it was important to save as many as possible.
They don’t fully understand why starfish “walkouts” happened, he said. There was one in Fish Hoek in September 2020.
“There are a few different theories relating to the tide, phases of the moon, and even to potential breeding events, but regardless of the reason, if starfish were left to their own devices during these walkouts they would surely die.”
Two Oceans Aquarium curator Tinus Beukes agreed that not much was known about starfish strandings. However, he said they did seem to correlate with periods of rainfall and freshwater run-off from the mountains into the ocean.
Sarah Warries, from Shark Spotters, said they would continue to monitor any starfish strandings and assist where possible with research into the cause.
Mr Pieterse said that with the help of the public, the starfish were placed in large containers filled with seawater.
The containers were then transported to Simon’s Town harbour, where Captain Dave Hurwitz, from Simon’s Town Boat Company, awaited them.
Mr Hurwitz said the starfish had been released about 1.5 km offshore and he had been happy to help.
“The ocean gives so much to us, and if we have an opportunity to do something for it, we should.”
He has previously assisted with the release of starfish with AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, bird release with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), and the return of seal pups to Seal Island.
Mr Pieterse said the Cape of Good Hope SPCA was grateful to the public for calling on them to intervene.
Should an animal be in need, call 021 700 4158/98. The after-hours emergency numberis 083 326 1604.