Population control: DENR removes crown-of-thorns starfish in Moalboal seas

By Futch Anthony Inso |March 22,2019 - 10:49 AM

Cebu City, Philippines — Personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) removed crown-of-thorns starfish in the seas off Moalboal town on March 21, 2019 in order to control the marine creature’s population.

The agency coordinated with some volunteer divers and officials in Barangay Saavedra of the said town for the operation. 

Lorenz Gideon Esmero, DMO II of DENR-7, said that the activity is part of their quarterly maintenance and protection activities, especially in the protected area of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS).

Crown-of-thorns, a specie of starfish, tends to populate during summer, infesting coral reefs which serve as their food.

If its population is not controlled, population of corals might decline, which will be bad since this serves as habitat and breeding ground of other marine animals.

Aside from Moalboal, the agency had also conducted the same activity in the municipality of Tabuelan, wherein they’ve collected around 15 crown-of-thorns starfish.

Domino effect

Mario Marababol, a marine biologist, clarified that crown-of-thorns starfish are naturally found in coral reef areas, which also helps in regulating coral reef species.

But due to anthropogenic impact, or human disturbance such as overfishing, the population of its natural predator has also declined 

“Based on the recent studies, increase water temperature increases the spawning of other organisms that are temperature dependent, and one of this organisms is the crown of thorns starfish,” Marababol said.

“In the long run, the productivity of the coral reef will decrease such as larval production of the organisms. Why? Because they will consume all the coral reefs. In return, coral reef production will die over time. So, it really has a domino effect,” he added. 

If the said specie will overpopulate, Marababol said that this will affect the fish catch of fishermen in the area.

“Our long-term goal is we should establish a MPA (Marine Protected Area) with proper implementation of the rules and regulations with regular monitoring on its status. If there is still no MPA, the LGU should establish one and establish fish quota so that the stocks won’t be depleted,” Marababol added. 

Esmero, on his part, said that they are conducting crown of thorns removal activity quarterly, especially in marine protected areas where they are commonly found.

He said that they are using modified thongs in removing the starfish, wherein they are brought to the shores to be buried.

The agency had also encouraged Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) to conduct the same activity.

He added that they will also conduct crown-of-thorns removal activity in Barangay Sta. Filomena in Alegria town.

The Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) head Baltazar Tribunalo earlier told CDN Digital that they’ve received reports of crown-of-thorns outbreak in the towns of Cordova, Dalaguete and Moalboal. /bmjo

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