Some of the 1,188 crown-of-thorn starfish collected from the San Jose MPA in Coron. (Photo courtesy of PCSD)

Over a thousand crown-of-thorns (COTS), voracious seastars that feed on corals alive, have been removed by volunteers from several environmental organizations from the waters of the San Jose Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Coron.

A post by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) on January 28 said 1,188 pieces of COTS were removed by a team of volunteers with the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (BFARMC) after numerous requests from concerned fisherfolks who noticed their alarming presence.

COTS, scientifically known as Acanthaster planci, is a marine invertebrate that feeds voraciously on coral animals. While it is a natural part of the coral ecosystem and contributes to the maintenance of coral diversity, an abnormal and rapid increase in its population can dramatically reduce the covers of living corals, the Council said in its statement.

The volunteers who carried out the operation to collect the crown-of-thorns. (Photo courtesy of PCSD)

The PCSD said experts who joined the operation used the all-natural solution “sukang tuba” or coconut vinegar on the COTS for them to release the corals they were feeding on.

COTS that were collected were buried in the sand to prevent anyone from being punctured by its sharp spines.

The PCSD said the research that started in the 50s to know the cause of the COTS outbreak is still continuously being undertaken, especially in Australia.

“Scientific reports from around the world suggest that it is associated with the high level of phytoplankton in the coastal waters, often enriched by nutrients washed off from land. Other possible causes include the change of ocean temperature due to the rapidly changing climate and the decline of its main predator, the giant triton or Charonia tritonis,” it said.

Volunteers were composed of representatives from San Jose Barangay Council, San Jose MPA, Municipal Agriculturist of Coron, Culion Foundation Inc., Palawan State University, Siete Pecados Marine Park, Coron Eco-Warriors, Local Monitoring Team, Coron MPA Network, Coron Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, USAID Fish Right Program, and the PCSD Staff.

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