This week in Bunaken… Two Fish Divers local dive guides have been super busy this week in a crown of thorns mass clean-up from the beautiful coral reefs in Bunaken National Park. Within one week we managed to collect 155 crown of thorns from three different dive and snorkel locations. By removing these destructive starfish species from the coral reefs we are ensuring the reefs stay alive and healthy.
You might ask why are we taking a living species off the reef? In fact, the crown of thorns (COT) starfish can eat up to 10 square meters of reef within a year. When their numbers are low there is no problem with them eating this much of the coral reef. However, if there is a massive bloom of their species a huge amount of damage can occur to the coral within a very short timeframe. The crown of thorns starfish has a natural predator which is the triton trumpet conch shell, but as tourism has developed in coastal areas these conch shells are removed from the ocean to sell as souvenirs. Now, we need to intervene to reduce the number of COTs.
Our guides and guests have noticed that within the last few months more of the crown of thorns have been appearing at some of our dive sites, so as an active Project Aware dive centre, we’ve responded by having a crown of thorn mass clean-up almost every day of this week. We have visited the dive sites of Tanjung, Lekuan II and Bunaken Timur I to Muka and have removed 44 COTs, 87 COTs and 24 Cots respectively from these sites. In total that’s 155 COTs taken off the coral reef here which means we’ve saved approximately 1,550 square meters of reef!
How do we remove them and what do we do with them you might be asking yourself? Using the local bamboo as thongs (think of a large pair of chopsticks) we pick them up and toss them into a crate. We bring them back to land where we count them and then take them up the hill behind the resort and bury them in the ground. It’s important to remove them completely from the water as studies have shown that cutting them in half actually creates 2 COTs instead of 1 and both will continue to survive.
If you would like to know more about how you can help save our reefs by participating in one of our Project Aware initiatives don’t be shy to ask us during your visit! We’re more than happy to get your help with keeping our underwater world gorgeous and healthy for the future!