Letters: Dealing with deadly starfish

Monday October 21, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor
Crown of Thorns Starfish are voracious coral predators. 19091106 / 19091107 Crown of Thorns Starfish are voracious coral predators. 19091106 / 19091107

Dear editor,

We read a very interesting report in the Cook Island News about Dr Teina Rongo’s tour of Mitiaro’s reefs and what is going on with eradicating Crown of Thorns starfish there (October 9, 2019).

We would like to thank you (Dr Rongo) for what you have done to protect the corals there.

Years ago when we were enjoying some nice snorkelling in Aitutaki, we learnt that Crown of Thorns was damaging the reef and the water in the lagoon there.

In 2016, we removed about 25 Crown of Thorns from the lagoon. In 2017, we took out 30 Crown of Thorns. Last month, we removed 91, and maybe this is a reason the researchers in their investigation on Pacific Resort found only six Crown of Thorns in the hotel lagoon.

We lived in Aitutaki Beach Villa and monitored the corals from Pacific Resort up to Amuri Beach Villas. We witnessed that too many corals died last year.

Twice we encountered two Crown of Thorns on one coral and four Crown of Thorns in a 5 x 5 metre area. This was on the reef near the Amuri hotel. This is also where we removed 27 Crown of Thorns in just two hours of snorkelling. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t even half of the Crown of Thorns that existed in that area.

It may not be a crisis yet but for the existing corals and the new grown corals, there are too many Crown of Thorns in Aitutaki’s lagoons. When you consider the fact that a single Crown of Thorns eats up to six square metres of coral a year, these 91 Crown of Thorns we took out would have eaten up to 600 square metres of coral in the next 12 months!

We are happy that you are aware of the problem and we hope there would be some initiative driven to tackle the Crown of Thorns issue in Aitutaki.

Dr Erika Regnet and Guenter Schmelz

Munich, Germany

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