THE Municipality of Moalboal has declared an outbreak of Crown of Thorns (COT) in some of its diving spots and island hopping destinations.
Moalboal Mayor Paz "Lingling" Rozgoni, a divemaster herself, said they found a hundred COT in a hectare. Based on standards, the presence of 30 COTs in one hectare is already considered an outbreak.
COT is a sea star named for the spines that cover its body and arms. This species is a well-known coral predator, and outbreaks have been known to cause serious harm to coral reefs in some areas.
Tourism Officer Rolie Alderite told SunStar Cebu that areas of Basdako, Panagsama, Saavedra, Tongo and Sanctuary points were found to have an alarming number of COT.
"Normal raman gyud siya nga starfish pero na-alarm mi kay kadaghan niya ba, mailhan man gud nimu kay naa siya'y agi. Iyang pangan-on ang corals. Last year naa man to siyay outbreak pero nakuha raman to karun murag alarming gyud siya, last year naa man to siyay specific areas lang, karun kay daghan gyud kasagaran sa atong dive sites," Alderite said.
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Alderite said they received reports from the dive operators about the alarming presence of COT.
Alderite said the increasing numbers of COT were not controlled since this nocturnal type of starfish lay eggs in the corals or beneath the corals.
The absence of triton snail which is the predator of COT might have contributed to the outbreak since this giant snail is considered to be endangered species as of this time.
With this, the Moalboal Underwater Taskforce which is composed of the Philippine National Police PNP, Coast Guard, Tourism, Bantay Dagat personnel and Moalboal Dive Association had conducted their first operation with 15 personnel to control the outbreak last Aug 28.
Licensed divers injected the vinegar solution into the COT. The said solution could kill the COT in 24 to 48 hours. Alderite said the Task Force had injected more than hundreds of Crown of Thorns.
Alderite said that there is another method to control the outbreak of COT such as removing them from the corals and buried them in the land.
However, this method is not recommendable since COT could increase more since it will lay hundreds or thousands of eggs if they are stressed out.
Around 30 personnel and volunteers from DOT, DENR, PCG, PNP, Cebu Provincial Office will conduct their second operation in injecting the vinegar to the COT, this Sunday Sept 12.
Alderite said they spent P30,000 per operation. The funds from the environmental safety or collections from the environmental users' fees paid by all the tourists were used for this activity. A series of operations will continue until the outbreak will be controlled./MVE