In Fiji, The Crown of Thorns is the closest you get to this. Recently Roberta Davis, owner of Makaira resort had another large scale attack of these perennially malevolent creatures. Here in Roberta's words are some lessons from Roberta on how to deal with this modern day plague which wreaks havoc on Fiji's reefs...
If you are near a reef, on a reef or love a reef, the Crown of Thorns (COT) is an unmitigated nightmare. For over the last two years our team at Makaira has been reef gardening. That consists of planting corals and ridding the reef of Crown of Thorns. Generally on an excursion of about every two weeks we will pick up at most between 25-45 after we got the population under control. Then there are times I only see a couple. When I went out earlier this week, there was a mass population explosion of COTS in every section of our garden.
The guys that work at Makaira have become very reef conscious since we started this program. So Mika, Mateo, Ben, Turaogo, a guest and I were the various participants of the murdering rampage on COTS. Generally we go out for about 2 hours. The first collection we used the small cooler and nearly sank it with 87, and then I brought the big cooler and they picked up another 126, two days later another section with a total of 225 and yesterday we did a grand sweep with 6 of us and picked up another 306. I think possibly one more sweep of the whole area will yield about 100 more.
I do know this much never try to hide from a Fijian because they were spotting them under ledges and in crevices, they have amazing underwater eyesight. We must have looked like a school of Dolphins out there playing in the wake of a boat. It was non-stop, spy and dive. If a single COT can consume 65 sq meters of reef in a year then what we collected this week saved approx.. 46,000 sq meters of reef. It would not have taken them long to decimate the whole area.
The big question that remains is why are we getting such a bloom? Is it because surrounding areas are not tending to their garden and they are moving over to our garden. Or was it the birth of the reef in Nov/Dec that created the bloom? Whatever it is, in all the years I have never seen a bloom so drastic and so quick.
The majority were the smaller sizes a bit bigger than a salad plate and then there were about 20% that were huge, much larger than dinner plates. From what I hear from our guests is that other areas they have snorkeled were so disappointing because of the masses of COT’s. It is sad for them, because they come here to see our magnificent reefs. It really is a problem that is going to need a concerted effort from everyone that is concerned over the health of our inshore reefs.
Collecting COTS is easy and good exercise. All you need is a water tight container, we use a cooler/eskie because when they are stressed they excrete all their reproductive juices and we don’t want that going into the sea and creating another bloom!
Getting skewered would stress out anything. Then you need a sharpened stick or spear, dive down, flip them over, spear them through the middle and put them in the container. If you have protective gloves wear them you do not want to be skewered by a COT because it slid down your spear. In the photo yu can see all the reproductive juices from the COT’s.
The most effective way to run a team is to have one person manning the container and staying in the vicinity of the free divers. It really cuts down on swimming time or losing your place.
When you are done, remove the container far from the sea, dump the liquid contents onto the road and empty the COT’s out to somewhere that needs fertilizing. It doesn’t take them long to evaporate, nor do they smell as bad as decomposing fish. After you are done, you will feel great about preserving your favorite marine habitat and have a good night sleep from all the exercise. A win- win situation.