Eradication of tarameas (Acanthaster planci)

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The Taramea

The taramea is the Polynesian name of the Acanthaster Planci (or "crown of thorns"). It is an invasive specie of starfish, predatory of the coral.

It is provided with spines on all the body to assure its protection. It can reach 40cm in diameter and has from 12 to 19 radiant arms around the body. It can move at the speed of 20 meters per hour. It feeds exclusively on coral against which it possesses a colossal potential of destruction.

 

Invasion phase

We know a little about these animals and we noticed that invasion phases occurred every ten years (approx). The scientists think that these invasive phases play a role with coral diversity and so avoid that a particular coral specie prevails on a cliff.

 


Video frame capture during an invasive phase

 

The Leeward Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Borabora and Maupiti) underwent an invasive phase which reached a peak in 2007. These invasions are impressive because in 24 hours, you may find on a dive spot, a "carpet" of tarameas literally occulting the coral bottom.

They are thousands of huge starfishes destroying slowly the reef.

Our association tried to act and naturally asked to public authorities. We then learnt the position of the Environment Ministry which aligns itself with the CRIOBE's(Research Center Island Observatory of Environment) which recommendations were " Do nothing ". These comments lean on the theory of the role of Taramea as regulator.

 

Eradication

As a scuba diver, it is quite difficult to content with observing these "monsters" quietly eating the coral.

We then decided to operate eradication's campaigns by concentrating on dive sites and by using an Australian method, widely tried on the Great Barrier Reef. The idea is to kill the animal by acid injection - of sodium bisulfate ( NahSO4) - which has the advantage to neutralize itself in the water, what makes it harmless for the surrounding fauna and flora. We would like to thank the SPEA (water treatment company) which uses Sodium Bisulfate in its mission of drinkable water treatment by osmosis and which supplied us all the acid we needed gracefully.

 

 

In 2 months of campaign, over 20.000 tarameas were killed and a few dive sites' areas have been preserved.

 

On the right picture, we can very well see the healthy coral to the left and the white part to the right which has just been destroyed. The coral is deprived of polyps and the very white aspect is nothing else than the skeleton of limestone. In a few days, seaweeds are going to develop and the branch will lose its white colour for a brown colour.

 

 

 


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