PLUCKING THE THREAT. Sea divers in Sarangani province pull Crown of Thorns (COTS) starfish from the coral reefs of Sarangani Bay due to their rapid population growth. The Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape Office on Friday (June 17, 2022) warned that if not controlled, the COTS could destroy the marine life balance along the shores of the province. (Photo courtesy of SBPSO)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – An official of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS) in Sarangani province warned Friday of an impending outbreak of the Crown of Thorns (COTS) starfish in the waters of Glan town.

“If not immediately controlled, it would most likely affect the livelihood of fishermen in the area,” Cirilo Lagnason Jr., SBPS deputy protected area superintendent, said in an interview.

The coastal town of Glan in the southern part of the province is still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Lagnason said more dive spots recently had an increase of hundreds of starfish within a 100 square meter radius of the municipality’s shorelines.

“We encourage stakeholders such beach owners and big companies in Sarangani doing tree planting activities as part of their social corporate responsibility to also help us in our problem because we need an urgent solution,”  Lagnason said.

He described COTS as a major cause of coral loss as it rapidly destroys large parts of the reef in the province.

“As we know, fish live in the reef. Without the coral reef, we won’t have any fish living around, so we need to act fast to stop it,”,” he said.

The venomous COTS or Acanthaster planci, is one of the largest starfish worldwide that preys upon hard, or stony, coral polyps.

Cutting the COTS into pieces can regenerate into multiple starfish and make the problem worse.

Injecting the starfish with vinegar or bile salts is an effective means of destroying the coral killers.

The waters of Sarangani Bay have rich fishing grounds. Local folk depends mostly on fishing, and it has been their primary source of living.

Lagnason said with the help of divers, they have managed to safely remove 175,000 COTS since October 2021. (PNA)