Multi-Sanctuary dive team prepares to remove Crown of Thorns from “priority” reefs

A multi-sanctuary dive team is preparing another coordinated removal of the Crown of Thorns (Alamea) starfish, scheduled to take place from April 14-28.

 

This was revealed during the 2nd media coffee chat held at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center last week, and hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS).

 

The project will focus on priority reefs and sanctuary management areas.

 

Currently, Sanctuary team members are coordinating with representatives from the National Park of American Samoa, the American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG), and the Dept. of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) on the upcoming Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) removal effort.

 

According to the NMSAS, planning includes pre-operation tow-board and drop surveys to identify areas with the highest densities of COTS—so removal efforts can achieve maximum success— as well as team roles and agency participation for all phases of the effort.

 

“The mission involves local, regional, and national collaboration and also includes team members from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Dive Center.

 

NMSAS’s Joseph Paulin explained that having guest divers from other Sanctuaries and NOAA to help out with the project is a plus, because they are able to go deeper and stay underwater longer.

 

The COTS removal effort has been in the planning stage since last fall and a public briefing is scheduled for Monday, April 28 at a location yet to be determined. Paulin said the project will be island-wide, not just in NPS and NMSAS protected areas.

 

Last month, two scientists from the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida visited the territory to conduct a site survey to find an appropriate spot for the deployment of an oceanographic buoy that will measure local environmental conditions.

 

The NMSAS and DMWR were able to get local divers on the boat to dive alongside the scientists, to monitor, assess, and eradicate the Crown of Thorns.

 

Over 2,000 Crown of Thorn (COT) starfish were killed in the territory last year during a collaborative effort between the NPS, DMWR, and the NMSAS.

 

COTS pose a threat to coral reefs because they prey on coral tissue. Several years ago, COT starfish infested waters within the local Sanctuary system but the problem was later resolved.

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