Philippines raises alarm vs starfish

Jun. 04, 2007

By Rose Palacio

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes yesterday warned the public, particularly people in coastal areas, against an outbreak of giant starfish that destroy marine ecosystems with their voracious appetite for corals.

The crown of thorns starfish (acanthaster planci), can grow up to 20 feet across and have an insatiable appetite for the coral reefs that provide breeding grounds and sanctuaries for small fishes.

Reyes sent a directive to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional offices that DENR officials should watch out for and identify the sanctuaries of these starfish in their localities.

After identifying the areas where these starfish thrive, DENR officials should organize groups and individuals to remove the crown of thorns starfish from the coral reefs, Reyes said.

He also advised the use of tongs in prying the starfish off the coral because they have poisonous spines and then isolating the starfish in containers.

Crown of thorns starfish have between 10 to 20 spines and can consume between five to six square meters of corals each year.

Because of rising sea temperatures and the run-off from human terrestrial effluents that increase the plankton the starfish larva feed on, the number of crown of thorns starfish has rapidly increased.

The areas initially identified as being at risk are the coasts of Mabini, Batangas; Apo reef and Puerto Galera in Mindoro; Apo Island near Dumaguete; Roxas in Palawan; Delinao in Lingayen Gulf and; Kiamba and Glan in Sarangani bay.

These starfishes can also be found in Mauritius in the western Indian Ocean and in the Red Sea, Australia, the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, the Philippines and across the Pacific all the way to the west coast of the United States.

The directive issued by Secretary Reyes was in line with the Presidents agenda in protecting the health of the Filipino people and provide effective services for the public. (PIA-XI Dispatch/rbp)

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