Some of the prettiest diving destinations are experiencing a problem of reefs turning white and becoming barren.
No, it’s not because of coral bleaching. But coral bleaching is a massive issue for top destinations like the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s because of an outbreak of Crown of Thornes Starfish.
The Crown of Thorns starfish is a sometimes invasive and multiple armed starfish that is distinctive for its coat of cactus-like bristles.
It feeds on hard or stony corals, and as a result, can cause the corals to turn snow white and die. When
When Crown of Thornes Starfish are present in small numbers, the corals can easily recover from the limited predation. The overall reef remains fine.
However, as the number of starfish increases in density to the point that they consume corals faster than the corals can reproduce and grow back, then there is obviously a problem.
This is happening more and more in some of the world’s most popular diving areas, including a range of Pacific Islands, spots in the Indian Ocean, and even along the Great Barrier Reef.
But in virtually every popular crown of thorns starfish outbreak region, scientists are coming up with innovative ways to combat the solution in bulk, or even just one starfish at a time.
In the Pacific Islands, and especially the Solomon Islands, a team of researchers is fighting a wall of starfish by literally attacking each starfish on a one-on-one basis.
Scientists use a solution that they make out of household vinegar. They then dive down to the reef wall and inject each and every starfish with a syringe full of the liquid.
After the divers inject the starfish, they die within 24-48 hours, and then are hopefully consumed by passing fish. The method has no impact whatsoever on the overall environment just the starfish themselves.
And the process hopefully garners new attention from fish predators who will become more attracted to the invasive species.
Scientists are introducing a different and more natural method to areas with starfish outbreaks along the Great Barrier Reef.
In this region, scientists are investigating the use of giant sea snails to intermingle with starfish and essentially eradicate the problem.
As it turns out, the giant sea snails emit an odor that naturally repel the starfish, causing the numbers to disappear.
It’s a unique solution that’s still in the works, but which could prove effective in an area where individual injections isn’t a practical answer to the problem.
An outbreak in 2015 led to an estimated 7 million crown of thorns starfish along the Great Barrier Reef. Each animal can consume roughly 110 square feet of reef per year.
As a result of the massive problem, individual injections can’t possibly cover all the infected areas. But the introduction of a natural predator provided it doesn’t affect the environment just might.
Scientists are somewhat optimistic that at least new solutions are coming to light for what is becoming a serious problem.
With bright minds working to get the crown of starfish population down to manageable numbers, hopefully, this dangerous critter overpopulation can be curtailed all around the globe.