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Starfish outbreak worries Southern Leyte

Elmer Recuerdo

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Local officials in Southern Leyte are alarmed at the increasing number of a specific specie of starfish in different municipal waters and are prompting the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to declare an outbreak.

An increasing number of the crown-of-thorns (CoT) starfish was observed in several towns during a recent survey of the Southern Leyte State University (SLSU), in which it said that the multiplied presence of this starfish was harmful to the natural flora of corals as it tends to eat them.

“The normal CoT for every hectare of corals is only one, but the SLSU survey found out that there are 25-30 CoTs per hectare of corals,” said Provincial Board member Aileen Estrera in a recent meeting of the PDRRMC.

Estrera, who chairs the committee on environment protection, urged all coastal barangays in Southern Leyte to conduct a count on CoT in their respected communities as an increasing number of this starfish was already being reported in their municipal waters such as Limasawa, Liloan, Padre Burgos and Libagon.

She added that while presence of CoT is normal, the upsurge in Southern Leyte is already beyond normal levels to threaten corals if these are not contained.

Southern Leyte is considered as one with the best dive sites in the country where coral reefs and best marine sites are being promoted.

Scientists links the spike in crown-of-thorns to increase in ocean nutrients caused by coastal and agricultural run-offs to the waters.

“In every single CoT, it produces 60 million eggs. Though only one percent survives, that one percent of 60 million is already 600,000,” Estrera stressed.

In 2017, a major outbreak was declared in the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef when thousands of CoT were found to have eaten a large part of corals.

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