[Coral-List] crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak in American Samoa

Sarah Graham segraham87 at gmail.com
Mon Nov 17 18:15:37 EST 2014

Hi Douglas,

Thank you for these resources, as unfortunately, we have the same issue in
Vanuatu. There have been extensive outbreaks of Crown of Thorns Starfish
(COTS) throughout the Islands  that have virtually gone unreported and
uncontrolled for many years. This has had significant impacts on the coral
reefs here, in which their recovery has been dampened by fishing pressures.
Because, of limited finances and resources in Vanuatu the purchase of bile
salts is too expensive (which is the ideal chemical solution used to inject
COTS), so instead we use 2x10ml shots of white vinegar. The Vanuatu
Fisheries Department and IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement),
hope to have this research along with the use of other alternative chemical
solutions (cheaper alternatives) published very shortly.

I have also included some information that I have found to be very
informative and useful, for those that may be interested on where to
purchase equipment, how to identify them in the reef and about their
biology and ecology. Also, if anyone is aware of any sources of funding
that may be interested in supporting the development of education materials
in bislama (national language of Vanuatu) to increase awareness and
understanding on the this issue, as well as assist in control efforts it
would be warmly welcomed.

I suggest visiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website for
the their Crown of Thorns Starfish control guidelines and also 'How to
videos. Listed under Control Guidelines

For purchase of equipment for the use of either bile salts and sodium
bisulphate I recommend this website

We do use a slightly different injection gun for vinegar, but if anyone
would require further information on this, just send me an email.

Also  bile salts can be purchased from New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (They
sell it for $234/kg + freight).

Hope this information is helpful to anyone else trying to tackle this issue..


Sarah Graham

Sarah Graham (B.Env.Sc(Hons), M.Sc.)
Marine Biodiversity Project Officer
Department of Tourism SHEFA Office
Private Mail Bag 9078
Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu
Tel: 678-33665; Mobile: +678-5423356
Email: gsarah at vanuatu.gov.vu

On Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 1:58 PM, Douglas Fenner <
douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:

>     Crown-of-thorns starfish sightings in American Samoa have been
> increasing for over a year.  They are now to the point that they are eating
> significant amounts of coral.  Efforts are underway to try to kill
> significant numbers of them by injecting them.  Efforts have been
> increasing as their numbers have been increasing, but their numbers
> continue to increase.  I'm told that (independent) Samoa, which used to be
> called Western Samoa and is in the same archipelago, has a similar
> problem.  My guess is that the increases in those visible (and the feeding
> scars) comes from more and more of them who have been in holes in the reef
> all the time, coming out to feed on coral.  I'm told that their sizes have
> been increasing, but of course virtually all that are seen are already
> nearly a foot in diameter or more.  The increases we've seen in the last
> year are unlikely to be due to continued reproduction, it is due to those
> in holes coming out as they grow.  But the large numbers now present, may
> well produce a large number of eggs and the next generation could be a much
> larger secondary outbreak.
>      Efforts to control them are an uphill battle.  The last previous
> outbreak here peaked in 1978, when there were millions, and they ate around
> 90% of all the coral.  Over 400,000 were collected then before the money
> ran out, and had no effect on their numbers.  Efforts started much earlier
> this time, in hopes of controlling it before it became uncontrollable.
> There was a previous outbreak that we know little about, in 1938.  In
> 2005-2012, coral cover increased in American Samoa, a bit of a success
> story, which is now treatened.
>     All this makes sense to me from what is known of crown-of-thorns
> biology.
> Birkeland, C.  1982.  Terrestrial runoff as a cause of outbreaks of
> *Acanthaster
> planci* (Echinodermata: Asteroidea).  Mar. Biol. 69: 175-185.
> Birkeland, C.  1989.  The Faustian traits of the crown-of-thorns starfish..
> American Scientist 77: 154-163.
> Brodie, J., Fabricius, K., De'ath, G., and Okaji, K.  2005.  Are increased
> nutrient inputs responsible for more outbreaks of crown-of-thorns
> starfish?  An appraisal of the evidence.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 51:
> 266-278.
> Morello et al. 2014.  Model to manage and reduce crown-of-thorns starfish
> outbreaks.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 512: 167-183.
> --
> Douglas Fenner
> Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
> PO Box 7390
> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> phone 1 684 622-7084
> "belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
> belief in evolution is optional, use of antibiotics that bacteria have not
> evolved resistance to is recommended.
> website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
> blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope
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