Moalboal conducts control operations to stop crown of thorns outbreak
MANDAUE CITY, Cebu — The Municipality of Moalboal in southern Cebu has been conducting underwater operations to stop the outbreak of the crown of thorns starfish.
Rolie Alderite, the town’s tourism officer, said they have been injecting acetic acid (vinegar) solution on the COT starfish found in the town’s three coastal barangays namely: Basdiot, Tuble, and Saavedra.
Alderite said the move came after receiving reports of the ‘alarming’ presence of the COT starfish, locally known as “dap-ag,” that would eat hard coral polyps, eventually killing them.
Saying corals are one of their local attractions, the tourism officer said they have to do preventive measures to save their marine tourist spots.
Moalboal is known for its white-sand beaches and dive spots.
Apart from injecting acetic acid which could kill the COT within 24 to 48 hours, removing them from coral reefs and burying them in the land is another method to eradicate the COT.
“Mao na nga to make it balance, atong gihimoan og pamaagi like atong gina control through injecting or collecting the crown of thorns,” he said.
Alderite said coral beds in the said barangays are not far from the shore. Divers, tourists, and snorkelers could already see them around five to 10 meters during high tide.
The first operation was conducted on August 28, 2021, by the Moalboal Underwater Task Force (MUTF), which is composed of personnel from the local Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), municipal tourism, Bantay Dagat, as well as dive operators and volunteers.
They will be having their second operation this Sunday, September 12, with additional personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO), and other volunteers.
While they allow volunteers to participate in the operations, he emphasized that only certified drivers are allowed, stressing that they cannot let anyone join without certification.
More operations will be conducted until the COT starfish outbreak in the town will be controlled.
Alderite clarified that it could be considered as an outbreak when there are 30 or more COTs in one hectare of coral bed.
Though it is not yet the season for the laying of eggs of the starfish, the tourism officer said that their sheer number and sizes alone is already a threat to the town’s tourism industry.
He also noted that the appearance of the nocturnal starfish is quite appalling. /rcg
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