Saving So. Leyte’s “Coral Wonderland”
The news on massive attack of crown- of- thorn starfish (Acanthaster planci) in Southern Leyte’s coral reefs particularly at Sogod bay area brings apprehension to the province folks whose earnings depend on its abundant marine resources and growing tourism industry like diving.
Also this suggests a bad news to my good friend Rio Cahambing, Southern Leyte’s leading scuba diver, travel writer and former OIC- provincial tourism operation officer. During his term, Rio has written intensively about the province’s so-called “Coral Wonderland”. Aside from exploring most of the province’s coral reefs areas (to include the entire coral areas at Limasawa Island) and bringing in international underwater photographers, divers and marine biologists to the province , Rio has also established fish sanctuaries mostly located in Sogod Bay.
Interestingly, Rio has greatly helped for the inclusion of the province in the Lonely Planet Philippines Guidebook 2002 Edition as “one of the upcoming dive destinations in the Philippines” during his term.
Starting 2002, the province has been closely working with Coral Cay (www.coralcay.org), an award winning and non-profit marine conservation organization. The organization is helping the province to ensure the health of its coral reefs, considering its great benefits to people’s livelihood and survival.
Using scientific and community awareness approaches, Coral Cay has enjoined the locals to undertake correct management and protection of its coral areas.
Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Regional Office has allocated P 5 million for a coral reef restoration project in Southern Leyte. Accordingly human activities like “household waste and sewage, and industrial and agricultural chemicals from land that are dumped at the sea” have caused damage to the treasured coral areas in the province. And now the attack of crown of thorn stars eating and turning Southern Leyte’s coral reefs into “skeletons”—cold, dead, colorless, uncomfortable and inhabitable to fish and other marine animals!
Checking the internet, I’ve found out some insights why infestation of crown of thorns starfish had also occurred in the province based on the study on “social and environmental agents of change at Pacific Islands at www.tellusconsultants.com: “…Other infestations of crown of thorns starfish in different stages of development in many island areas – usually in close proximity to villages or urban areas. There was no “common denominator” to clarify the cause of the population blooms. Instead, the picture that emerged was that blooms are likely to occur where the reefs are stressed. And the reefs of the world are stressed by many different causes.
What sorts of things stress reefs? People blast reefs with dynamite, and the crown of thorns, and even their swimming larvae, are attracted to the metabolytes released by damaged corals. People break coral when walking on reefs, to get shells for tourists, to get coral rocks for building material. Reefs are overfished. At least two species of large fish eat the crown of thorns. They are gone from most reefs near people. People poison the reefs with various chemicals to kill or stun fish. Agricultural chemicals applied to island gardens or used to control mosquitos wind up in the sea, and in the corals. This weakens the corals. When the crown of thorns eats the coral they accumulate these chemicals in their own tissues (it does not seem to harm them, the larvae actually survive better with DDT in the water). The predators of the crown of thorns, including triton shells and a beautiful little shrimp, may die or encounter breeding problems from the concentrated poisons in the starfish’s flesh. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the sea water reduces calcium deposition, slowing coral growth.”
In the end, I believe the attack of these “coral predators” is no match to the capability of Southern Leyteños to protect its precious natural resources being united and socially and environmentally conscious people. (Comments at email@example.com)
By: Ronald O. Reyes
Short URL: http://leytesamardaily.net/?p=24916