As many times as I have been to Couple Negril I have often wondered about the Seastars etc. I have had people tell me that they can't be out of water that long etc. So I did some lookin' around and some people say they can live 2-hours others say several hours.
So I sent an email to the New England Aqaurium in Boston and this is what I got back
You're question about seastars (they are called "seastars" because they are not fish), came to me. It's a tricky one to answer because there is a long human history of collecting sea life. Generally however, we encourage stewardship of aquatic life and respect of their natural behaviors and requirements.
You are correct—the amount of time that seastars can survive out of water ranges widely depending on temperature and the size and species of the seastar. They can certainly stay out of the water longer than we can stay under it! However, they are live animals that require a specific habitat. They are not meant to be out of water and any amount of time exposed to air challenges their ability to function normally. Seastars live in the ocean, breathe in the ocean, eat in the ocean, and rest in the ocean. Most prefer to be attached to a firm substrate such as rocks. Removing them sometimes means that they loose their tiny tube feet, or even worse, their arms.
In areas where people come in contact with tidepool or shallow water animals, the animals are likely to be stressed by continued human contact. We often assume that once we return them to the ocean they will be fine, but once disturbed, animals often take a long time to recover and may not survive at all. Even animals that are put in buckets for a short time can die because of rapid temperature rise and loss of oxygen in the water.
Sometimes I ask children how they might feel if they were dunked all day in very cold water, given very little chance to breathe or eat, and then returned to an unfamiliar place. People could ask to be released and seek out help; none of these animals can do that. This method is a bit extreme, but it does help people to understand that these animals have unique requirements for “comfort” and survival.
In terms of collecting, it is important to realize that park services and conservation commissions adopt a general "no collecting" policy. This includes the collection of organic non-living marine items such as empty shells, molts and empty egg cases, as well as live marine seaweeds. Even dead and non-living materials such as branches and shells provide food and habitat for species in an ecosystem. A "no collecting" policy falls in line with the minimal-impact ethic that many environmental organizations and land management agencies are moving toward in the face of the growing number of visitors to even the most remote outdoor places.
A "no collecting" policy encourages people to appreciate, interact with and connect to the coastline in creative ways, such as writing in a journal, taking pictures, sketching or writing poetry. People learn to visit a site without needing to possess a piece of it, exploiting it for selfish reasons. Even the smallest impact, when multiplied by the hundreds or thousands could eventually degrade a habitat.
Hope this helps! Thank you for your question and thank you for spreading our message of stewardship.
I thought this was great information..so maybe we can, as they say in Jamaica "Respect" the seastar Mon!