Volunteers from several environmental organizations have removed a total of 1,188 pieces of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) from the coastal waters of San Jose Marine Protected Area in Coron, Saturday. 

The COTS removal was initiated by Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, following the request of concerned fisherfolks who noticed the alarming number of COTS in the area.

COTS, scientifically known as Acanthaster planci, is a marine invertebrate that feeds voraciously on coral animals. While it is a natural part of the coral ecosystem and contributes to the maintenance of coral diversity, an abnormal and rapid increase in its population can dramatically reduce covers of living corals.

Local experts who joined the operation directly injected “sukang tuba” or coconut sap vinegar, an all-natural solution, to the body of the starfish. The acetic acid of the vinegar is known to be lethal to COTS.

The extracted starfish were then buried in the sand to ensure safety from the COTS venomous thorn-like spines.

The team was composed of representatives from San Jose Barangay Council, San Jose MPA, Municipal Agriculturist of Coron, Culion Foundation Inc., Palawan State University, Siete Pecados Marine Park, Coron Eco-Warriors, Local Monitoring Team, Coron MPA Network, Coron Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, USAID Fish Right Program, and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff.

Researches to determine the exact causes of COTS outbreak are continuously being undertaken since the 1950s especially in Australia. Scientific reports from around the world suggest that it is associated with the high level of phytoplankton in the coastal waters, often enriched by nutrients washed off from land. Other possible causes include the change of ocean temperature due to the rapidly changing climate and the decline of its main predator, the giant triton or Charonia tritonis.

Watch actual footage of the COTS removal here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVNdxcrX_uM&feature=youtu.be

Crown-of-thorns starfish in San Jose MPA, Coron
Collected crown-of-thorns starfish from the reefs of San Jose MPA in Coron
Volunteers and representatives