Crown-of-Thorns Outbreak Threatens Vanuatu TourismCatch of the Week
An outbreak of crown-of-thorns (COT) has been reported on the island of Santo which can threaten tourism activities in the area particularly in the community of Luganville.
According to a report from the Government of Vanuatu’s Fisheries Department, researchers have found “unexpectedly high densities” of COT—an invasive species of starfish which prey on coral reefs—particularly along some reef areas in the community.
Luganville residents depend on coral reefs for tourism and for their livelihood.
In response, the government and community members initiated several activities to combat a COT invasion in November 2013, highlighted by a survey of COT populations in the area, and an actual cleanup drive.
The actual cleanup drive yielded some 3.7 tons of COT during 9 days of clearing on the shallow waters off Luganville. According to the government, the cleanup activity was also “timely” as mature COT populations were about to spawn. The removal of COT can prevent the release of billions of larvae, the government said.
The government said the activities aim to “develop a pragmatic and participative approach to limit the damage of COT on the coral reefs of the Luganville area.”
Although much is still to be done when it comes to educating members of the rural community on basic information about COT biology and ecology—such as feeding behavior, reproduction cycles, growth, and habitat, among others—the government said Vanuatu’s coastal communities are making headway to combat COT outbreaks.
The nearby community of Banban earlier conducted a similar cleanup drive headed by the government and supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB.) The ADB also supported the cleanup drive in Luganville.
Vanuatu Community Joins Effort to Fight Crown-of-Thorns Invasion