Starfish threatens famed Philippine coral reefs

May 31, 2013
A photo released by the Australian Institute of Marine Science on October 2, 2012 shows crown-of-thorns starfish and cyclone damage in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The coral-killing starfish has begun infesting a channel of water in the Philippines famed for having some of the most diverse marine life in the world, the government says.

A coral-killing starfish has begun infesting a channel of water in the Philippines famed for having some of the most diverse marine life in the world, the government said Friday.

The appearance of the crown-of-thorns starfish in the Verde Island Passage could cause great damage to the area's biodiversity, Jacob Meimban, head of the wildlife bureau's coastal marine management office, told AFP.

"The crown-of-thorns starfish really kills the corals. It eats the polyps of the corals, leaving the bleached, white bodies. Then it moves elsewhere... until it leaves the reef dead," Meimban said.

Marine biologists have described the passage, which is 100 kilometres (around 60 miles) long and 20 kilometres wide, as the "centre of the centre" of the world's ocean biodiversity.

It is at the top of the Coral Triangle, an area of water spanning down to Indonesia, and East Timor that is called the " of the Seas" because of its rich marine life.

However environmentalists have also warned for years that the passage, a popular dive location, is under grave threat from pollution and overfishing.

It is one of the busiest waterways in the Philippines, with its waters plied daily by oil and chemical carriers. On nearby shores there are shipyards, chemical, and big populations.

Meimban said the starfish had been detected in large numbers for the first time in recent months.

He said they may have boomed because of overfishing, which removed many of its , and siltation, which brings nutrients to the sea that encourage their growth.

He said two dives in the Verde Island passage since April had found at least 500 square metres (around 5,400 square feet) of corals ruined by the starfish, but they did not have enough divers to determine the full extent of the damage.

The wildlife bureau has tapped local volunteers, university students and the for divers to start removing the starfish.

"But we need more divers," he said.

Removing the starfish requires divers to laboriously pick them up one-by-one with metal tongs, then bring them to shore for burial, he said.

say the crown-of-thorns has been a recurring threat to coral reefs around the world for decades.

The Australian government said in March it had spent more than $1.4 million to cull 60,000 of them on the Great Barrier Reef.

Explore further: US proposes stricter ozone limits

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia scientists tackle reef-killing starfish

Oct 08, 2012

An Australian research team said Monday they have found an effective way to kill the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish, which is devastating coral reefs across the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Australia admits neglect of Great Barrier Reef

Oct 03, 2012

The Australian government admits the Great Barrier Reef has been neglected for decades after a study showed it has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years. ...

Starfish strike at coral kingdom

Jan 16, 2008

Outbreaks of the notorious crown of thorns starfish now threaten the “coral triangle” – the richest center of coral reef biodiversity on Earth. That’s the finding of recent scientific surveys by the ARC Centre of ...

Recommended for you

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

2 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

US proposes stricter ozone limits

13 hours ago

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Wednesday to strengthen emission regulations for ozone, a smog-causing pollutant blamed for respiratory ailments affecting millions of Americans.

Deforestation drops 18 percent in Brazil's Amazon

16 hours ago

Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest dropped 18 percent over the past 12 months, falling to the second-lowest level in a quarter century, Brazil's environment minister said Wednesday.

The unbelievable underworld and its impact on us all

18 hours ago

A new study has pulled together research into the most diverse place on earth to demonstrate how the organisms below-ground could hold the key to understanding how the worlds ecosystems function and how they ...

Toolkit for ocean health

20 hours ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.