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COTS removal drive

Sikeli Qounadovu
Monday, September 19, 2016

Youth of Rukua Village, on Beqa island with the support of Beqa Lagoon Resort, successfully carried out the Island's very first 'Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) removal' initiative.

According to research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and published in the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority website "coral cover on surveyed reefs has declined by about 50 per cent over the past 30 years. Crown-of-thorns starfish were responsible for almost half of this decline.

The research estimates that if crown-of-thorns starfish predation had not occurred over the past three decades, there would have been a net increase in average coral cover.

"Crown-of-thorns starfish spawn during the warmer months (around October to February), with large females capable of producing up to 65 million eggs over the spawning season.

"Predators of adult crown-of-thorns starfish include the giant triton snail, the humphead Maori wrasse, starry pufferfish and titan trigger fish. Predators of the starfish in its younger life stages are less known."

Project organiser, and resort marine biologist, Sefano M Katz said he couldn't have hoped for a better day.

He said the 16 youths from Rukua Village, who joined resort guests and members of an NGO learnt about COTS and their impact on the coral reef, and to actively engage in efforts to mitigate this emerging threat.

"It was about integrating local efforts to tackle a real and current threat of a population outbreak of COTS, a known voracious coral predator, and working towards preserving the reef.

"If not dealt with, COTS, on top of coral bleaching, will have its toll in the very near future," he said.

Orisi Cagilaba, Rukua headman is grateful for the support from the resort.

"It's good they want to work with locals on the island and train local staff to conduct the fieldwork needed.

"Hopefully with Rukua Village taking the lead, more villages on Beqa will follow and more locals will do what is needed to restore our own reefs and focus on adaptation methods to climate change, such as around coral bleaching."

With the summer just ahead of us, in addition to a prospective outbreak of COTS on the reefs of Beqa, we might be facing a catastrophe if we do not act to resist these pressures and help build our resilience.

Joining the initiative as well last week were volunteers with climate movement group, 350 Fiji.

"It was an honour to be here and learn a little more about our coral reefs, and how natural and man-made dangers, are destroying this vital piece of our natural environment," says George Nacewa, 350 Fiji co-ordinator.

"Part of our #PrayForOurPacific campaign is uplifting in prayers the work of climate activists across the Pacific. Today was an opportune time to support the efforts of these communities on the front lines and let them know that while they are doing the work locally, there is an entire movement of people working across the Pacific region and the world, working to protect this planet too," he said.

The COTS removal initiative is the first of more planned activities focused on preserving and protecting the coastal area and the coral reefs around Beqa.

Meanwhile according to Fenton Lutunatabua the Pacific Communications Coordinator for, faith-based communities from the Pacific region and around the world organised prayers for Pacific Islanders whose homes had been adversely affected by climate change.

More than 100 events took place over the past two weeks as part of the#PrayForOurPacific campaign.

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