Last Updated on June 13, 2021
We love exploring a rugged PNW beach for starfish. The most common sea star of the Pacific Northwest to find near Vancouver is the pisaster ochraceus. They are generally known as the purple sea star, ochre sea star, or ochre starfish. It is a common starfish found within the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
When the tide is out, plenty of marine life can be exposed. Rocky shores give the best chance of finding marine life and great tide pools!
To find the starfish on this list, you do not even need to hop into a kayak or get your scuba certification. You will find these starfish from staying on land. These are some of the most easily accessible places near Vancouver to find starfish that we have discovered.
Table Of Contents
- All About Ochre Starfish
- Starfish Near Vancouver
All About Ochre Starfish
Sea Star Wasting Disease
Sea Stars along the Pacific Northwest have been making a slow but steady comeback after suffering from sea star wasting syndrome. Ochre sea stars were hit bad, after first being observed in 2013. The disease disintegrates their bodies, causing them to slowly waste away. It is still not understood what caused the disease, but part of the problem is thought to be caused by increasing ocean temperatures.
Ochre sea stars have five arms and a rough surface, with the short spines on the upper surface arranged in mesmerizing wavy patterns. Most we find are purple starfish, but they can also be orange or have more of a red tone. Your best chance to find some is on mussel beds and wave-washed rocky shores, at low tide. The juvenile starfish can be found in crevices and under rocks. The tremendous amount of starfish that are exposed as the tide goes out, shows that they are intertidal animals. We especially love finding the baby sea stars because they are way too cute!
Ochre sea stars may move slowly across the ocean floor, but they do move when searching for food. Ochre sea stars prey on smaller animals, one of the most common in their sea star diet is mussels. A sea star can overtake a mussel using its arms to pull the shells slightly apart. It then everts its stomach out through its mouth and into the shell, digesting and absorbing the nutrients. Sea stars can wipe out mussels from stretches of coastline.
Predators Of Starfish
Sea Otters and Gulls are the biggest predators. Otters can chow down on any size starfish. Gulls can pick up starfish that are up to a radius of 6 cm.
How Do Sea Stars Reproduce?
Once a sea star reaches age five, it can breed. Ochre sea stars spawn during the summer. They are different sexes, but whether a sea star is male or female is impossible to determine externally.
A large ochre female can produce a whopping 40 million tiny eggs. Once fertilized by males, the larvae float around in the plankton, and after a few months, they settle outside the plankton.
How Long Do Starfish Live?
Many sea stars live to a minimum age of four years. However, ochre sea stars can live as long as twenty years. Ochre sea stars are often considered a keystone species in many intertidal regions.
How Do Starfish Move?
Starfish move by their tube feet. If you look at the underside of a starfish, you will see thousands of these little tube feet. The water enters the inside of the starfish and reaches the feet, using its advanced water vascular system. It causes a series of contraction and relaxation procedures that move the animal slowly from one place to another.
As the moon orbits Earth, it is the gravitational force that follows that drags the ocean, causing the tides. It is sort of like a “tug-o-war” with gravity.
Knowing how to interpret tide tables is important for those who rely on the oceans for their passions or livelihoods, such as fishing, diving, or surfing. However, it is important for finding low tides for beachcombing and admiring tide pools as well. It can be a little daunting at first, but with some time and practice, you’ll be reading one well enough to know when to arrive at the beach for your favorite activities.
Use a tide table that is specific to the area you are visiting. Areas near each other can have different tides. It is easiest if you have a bit of flexibility, so you are able to find an option that is most convenient for you. However, keep in mind that you could have to wait a few days to visit. High and low tide times will be different every day, so do not assume that this Friday will be anything like the next Friday! Also, there are approximately 2 high tides and 2 low tides every 24 hours.
For example, if the chart says that low tide is at 5 pm, that means it is at its lowest point at that time. In other words, the time of the shallowest water. It takes around 6 hours for a tide to recede to its lowest point and another 6 hours for it to make it back to its highest point.
Tidepool viewing and beach hiking are best when tide levels fall below 1.5 meters (5 feet).
Always be respectful of the starfish and other sea creatures you find washed up on land. Many people do not realize that starfish are living creatures. It is best to not touch them as touching them without proper technique is risky. The starfish have tiny structures all over their bodies and touching them may injure them, even if we cannot visibly see damage at that moment.
Starfish Survival At Low Tide
Many people think that if a sea star is washed up onto land during low tide, that they need to take it back to the water. Actually, ochre sea stars increase their mass during high tide. They soak up extra water from the sea so that when they are exposed to higher temperatures during low tide, they can survive. The cold water acts as protection from the overheating sun.
Starfish Near Vancouver
Here are the best places to find purple sea stars near Vancouver:
Crescent Beach is one of our favorite beaches for family time that is also close to home. I grew up visiting Crescent Beach and had many field trips to explore the beach throughout elementary school.
The beach is located in South Surrey, near the northern end of Semiahmoo Bay and the mouth of the Nicomekl River. It is home to Camp Alexandra, the Crescent Beach pier, and Blackie Spit regional park, all local landmarks.
There are two fantastic spots to find starfish at Crescent Beach. Take a look around the base of the pier near Blackie Spit and on the rocky side of the beach. Keep walking down the rocky side of the beach and you will start to find endless starfish. If you do not see them, you have not walked far enough.
When you enter the beach at the main entrance by the restaurants and ice cream shops, walking right down the path will take you to the pier. Walking left down the path will take you to the rocky side of the beach.
Crescent Beach is one of our favorite places to find starfish near Vancouver.
Related Story – Exploring The Rugged Beauty Of Crescent Beach
Belcarra Regional Park – Picnic Area Beach
Belcarra Regional Park is a 2,700-acre park located in Belcarra Greater Vancouver area. It is located northeast of the meeting of Burrard Inlet with Indian Arm, beginning near Belcarra Bay and extending to Sasamat Lake.
The easiest place in Belcarra Regional Park to find starfish is at the beach near the picnic area of the main parking lot. It is an easy walk to the beach area. At low tide, you will find plenty of starfish to admire.
Belcarra Regional Park – Jug Island
Hiking to Jug Island in Belcarra Regional Park is another great way to find starfish at low tide. We happened to have luck on our side as we did not even consider that we would find starfish. We reached Jug Island and were surrounded by a tremendous amount; it was one of our favorite starfish discoveries.
It is a fairly easy hike, at only 5.5 km (3.4 miles) roundtrip, though there are many incline/decline switches. To find the trailhead, walk towards the kid’s playground and picnic areas from the parking lot. Follow the trail from the marker, cross the road and continue the trail to the left.
Related Story – Sea Stars At Smuggler Cove On The Sunshine Coast
Barnet Marine Park
Barnet Marine Park is located at the bottom of Burnaby Mountain. Located on an old bustling logging mill camp, it is a unique park to explore. Concrete towers and the skeleton of a scrap burner show the history of this small mill town that was a busy industrial area before the first Park Commission Development Plan in 1973 created this incredible foreshore park. This park is still somewhat of a hidden gem, too!
We were absolutely amazed by the tremendous amount of starfish we found at low tide under the pier. Underneath the pier is overflowing with mussels on the pier legs. Since starfish love to devour mussels, that is probably why there were endless starfish in this area; for a big feast!
Barnet Marine Park is one of our favorite places to find starfish near Vancouver.
Cate’s Park is the North Vancouver District’s largest seaside park with views of Indian Arm to the north and the Burrard Inlet to the south.
At low tide, you can find starfish (ochre and leather), as well as plenty of red sea cucumbers. The best area for finding starfish is the rocky beach around the boat launch pier. To start your search off with some good finds, walk towards the big boulders on the beach and search around the bases of them.
Cates Park is also less than a 10-minute drive to Deep Cove, our next starfish destination. It is possible to fit both locations in at low tide, we have done it with plenty of time to explore. If you want to attempt it, we suggest starting at Deep Cove and arriving early so you are admiring the starfish right when the tide hits its lowest point for the day.
Deep Cove is a beautiful seaside village in North Vancouver. Located at the foot of Mount Seymour, it fronts onto Indian Arm, and part of the Burrard Inlet. The scenery makes it feel like it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It is a popular location for kayaking and paddleboarding.
If you do not want to get your feet dirty, you can even view the starfish from the pier, looking over the railing into the water. The tide was not quite low enough for us to find them along the beach when we first arrived at Deep Cove. Spotting starfish from the pier was a great way to still admire the starfish as we waited for the tide to go out a little bit more.
If you are only stopping for starfish searching, after you are done at Deep Cove, you should still be able to make it over to Cates Park with the low tide (our suggestion above), for some more sea star discovery. However, we suggest not rushing it and enjoying a day trip to Deep Cove.
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Where have you found starfish near Vancouver?