Monday, April 15, 2013

Pulau Perhentian : Department of Marine Park Malaysia and Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

The loss of sea biodiversity needs to be halted and to be taken care of. The outbreaks of the coral-killing Crown-of-Thorns Satrfish (Tapak Sulaiman Mahkota Berduri) can decimate the beautiful coral reefs and destroy the natural ecosystem in the sea. Statistics had shown that from 1992 – 2012, through the annual Pulau Perhentian Crown-of-Thorns Starfish and reef clean-up programme, more than 10,000 Crown-of-Thorns Starfish were destroyed.

The beautiful undersea world 

Pulau Perhentian Crown-of-Thorns Starfish and reef clean-up programme 2013 was the Problem Solving Programme organized by Department of Marine Park Malaysia at Pulau Perhentian Marine Park on 5 April 2013. It was officiated by Dato’ Sri Zoal Azha bin Yusof, Secretary General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. More than 100 participants including volunteers from government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), tourism operators and scuba diving center as well as the local island villages took part in this annual event to clean up the coral eating creature.

   Peaceful Pulau Perhentian

The crown-of-thorns starfish, commonly known as Tapak Sulaiman Mahkota Berduri, is a large, multiple-armed star fish or sea star that usually preys upon hard, or stony, coral polyps which receives its name from its long poisonous venomous thorn-like spines that cover its upper surface. It is the second-largest sea-star in the world after the sunflower sea star. Adult C.O.T is typically 30-40cm in diameter whereas specimens occasionally grow as large as 70cm.

   Crown-of-thorns starfish
A group of 3 to 4 divers jointly collect C.O.T.  The more experienced 2 divers are responsible for collecting the C.O.T while the others act as spotters and to carry the net bags. The collected C.O.T will be counted and then buried in the sand.

The Crown-of-thorns starfish are one of the most damaging creatures of tropical coral reefs. The voracious predators release the contents of their stomach on to the coral and the digestive juices liquefy the coral for consumption, often leading to widespread devastation of coral population.

   Crystal clear sea water

Although the predators including molluscs, fish and worms but the outbreaks can cause the coral food supply and coral cover goes into decline. A single individual sea star can wipe out large areas in this way. They are almost completely covered in protective venomous spines capable of causing great damages.

  Snorkeling to explore undersea world

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish are naturally occurring animals on coral reefs. Adults COTs have more than15 arms and are usually blue, but sometimes purple red. To protect itself C.O.Ts has short toxic spines that are easily embedded in the skin. An efficient predator can consume 5-13 square meters of living coral a year.

The prices of PADI Programmes

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish are part of the coral reef ecosystem, usually there are about 1-20 cots per hectare of reef. However, during the outbreak, the naturally low numbers of C.O.Ts increase to over 30 or thousands of C.O.Ts per hectare of coral reef. The C.O.Ts cluster together and devour the living coral, leaving a white graveyard of dead coral behind. The dead coral becomes covered in brown algae.

PRO Diver's world

Outbreaks occur naturally. Specific causes for outbreak are not well understood. Scientists are researching a possible link with human activities such as used of pesticides and fertilizers in farms. Some scientists have proposed overfishing of C.O.T predators. Napoleon Wrasse and triton shells may have led to the outbreak.

Several factors are important to ensure the success of a cots cleanup:
i.             The reef is not too damaged by C.O.T or human activities
ii.           The reef area is small enough to maintain effective control
For most outbreaks in Marine Park Malaysia, the best clean-up method is physical removal of the C.O.T from the reef and burial offshore.
   Beautiful Pulau Perhentian

We can help to protect our coral reef and help our coastal communities by:
i.       Report illegal fishing activities that destroy reefs such as illegal trawling
ii.    Don’t remove living shells or coral or buy ornamental especially the Triton shell that eats C.O.T.
iii.      Dispose of chemicals and trash properly. Waste thrown into rivers is carried to the ocean where it kills healthy reefs and other marine animals
iv.         Help by participating in C.O.T clean-up and beach trash clean-up.


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