DENR alarmed over proliferation of dangerous starfish in Davao

May. 23, 2007

By Mai Gevera

DAVAO CITY — Recent data from various diver organizations citing the increase in number of the poisonous crown-of-thorns or known as dap-ag have alarmed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Crown-of-thorns is a red starfish with thorn-like spines sprouting all over its body. Its long spines are capable of pricking and stinging, inflicting great pain that can last for hours, as well as nausea and vomiting if accidentally touched or stepped.

DENR noted about 3,000 pieces of such starfish in the Coral Garden, Island Garden City of Samal.

Regional Technical Director Emmanuel Isip said that this number is very much alarming which pushed the office to consider crown-of-thorns as harmful to the water system.

The increase in their number would translate an imbalance of the ecosystem because they destroy the coral reef., he explained.

Studies showed that this species is at least partly responsible for the loss of coral reefs, because they are voracious predators that can wipe out large areas of coral; one starfish can consume up to 6 square meters of living reef per year.

Isip attributed the decreasing number of Napoleon Wrass or Mameng to the proliferation of the poisonous starfish.

Mameng is said to be the biological predator of the crown-of-thorns. Due to the high market demand of Mameng especially as a food specialty in Chinese restaurants, plenty of this species have been cited as endangered.

Davao Gulf and Management Councils Margarita Moran Floirendo said that environment advocates had started inspecting restaurants in Manila if they sell and cook Mameng which costs about P2,500 per piece.

Floirendo said that Davao could somehow do the same in strictly monitoring restaurants and pushing for their closure if proven to have been selling such variety.

DENR, on the other hand, could only strengthen its education drive by informing the people on the need to preserve Mameng.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) claimed that certain steps have been started in Palawan to take care of its breeding. (PIA XI/Mai Gevera)

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