Starfish, or sea stars, are echinoderms belonging to the class Asteroidea. They are usually predators of molluscs, and starfish predation is a major problem for the commercial cultivation of bivalves such as oysters, scallops and mussels (Lee, 1951; Barkhouse et al., 2007). Notable predatory species include Asterias forbesi, Asterias vulgaris and Asterias rubens in the Atlantic, and Asterias amurensis and Coscinasterias sp. in the Pacific.
Mechanical control methods consist in preventing predation by fences or in removing the starfish using "mops", dredges, traps or hand-picking. The latter methods result in variable amounts of starfish that need to be destroyed or recycled. Fresh starfish can yield one ton of meal per four tons of raw material (Lee, 1951). Today, harvested starfish are usually turned into fertilizer or composted. Starfish are also used for arts and crafts, and for biological research (Barkhouse et al., 2007).
In the first half of the 20th century, concerns about the shortage of protein feed during wartime led researchers in Europe and North America to investigate the potential of starfish meal for pigs and poultry (Lee, 1951; Bigwood, 1947). While the results showed that starfish meal was usable to feed animals, it was concluded that the commercial production of starfish meal was not practicable, due to the extreme variability of the product, large fluctuations in availability, low feed quality and relatively high production costs compared to competing protein sources such as fish meal or oil by-products (Lee, 1951; Barkhouse et al., 2007). However, starfish meal was produced and used locally to feed animals in Europe and North America during and between the two World Wars (Galstoff et al., 1938; Frens, 1945), and perhaps over the last decades, though not significantly (Barkhouse et al., 2007).