Divers preempt spread of destructive starfishBy Joanna Los Baños |Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—At least 40 divers from the government and private organizations gathered for a two-day underwater cleanup to save the reefs of this city, collecting mostly crown of thorns (Cots), a breed of starfish that destroys corals.
Jose Roco Jr., science research specialist of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said the divers collected at least 500 Cots.
Their effort, said Roco, saved at least 10.5 hectares of coral cover “which could have been damaged in a year” had the Cots not been removed.
The removal of Cots, an undertaking put together by the Albay provincial government, was held June 26-27 in celebration of Environment Month.
Roco said the Cots were gathered at the Pasig Reef located off the coast of Barangay Arimbay in this city and Denson Reef off the coast of villages lying “somewhere in the middle of Albay Gulf.”
A total of 414 Cots were removed from the Pasig Reef and 58 from the Denson Reef, according to Roco, who also heads the Bicol Scuba Divers Foundation Inc. (BSDFI)
A separate dive was conducted in Hulugan Reef in Manito town, Albay, where divers were able to gather 10 Cots.
The crown of thorns, locally called lapa-lapa, has razor sharp spines that could cause injuries to humans.
They have a star-shaped body with tentacles connected to the center called a disk and are covered by sharp spines about four to five centimeters long.
They eat tiny coral polyps then leave coral skeletons susceptible to invasion by algae and worms.
Divers used bamboo sticks and sacks to gather the Cots. They slid the bamboo in between the Cot and the coral and gently lifted the stick so the starfish would automatically hold on it.
Hilda Asis-Lopez, coordinator of the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Management in Albay, said the cleanup was organized to prevent an outbreak of Cots, which could later lead to loss of fish and loss of livelihood for fishermen.
“It is a big help because crown of thorns destroy corals quickly,” she said. She said manually collecting the Cots is one of the most effective ways of preventing an outbreak.
The DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, BSDFI and Pacific Blue Dive Center pooled their efforts to gather the Cots.