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Coral Symposium ponders reefs’ future, starfish

Date Posted: 2002-11-09

The Japan Coral Symposium held a public meeting in Tokyo recently. The topics of the meeting was the proliferation of crowned thorn starfish and red soil pollution that are both killing Okinawan coral reefs at a record pace.

Everyone attending agreed that the situation is getting bad, and drastic measures should be taken to ensure that the coral reefs in Okinawa survive. The problem is no one knows what such measures are.

Tokai University Professor Hironosuke Yokochi recommended that a systematic program to monitor the condition of the reefs should be implemented. “If the reefs are divided into smaller areas which are inspected for damage regularly, perhaps monthly, then we can do something about starfish, for example, before it’s too late,” Yokochi argues. He also recommends that the state allocate a regular budget for cleaning the reefs of starfish.

“All measures to reduce the number of starfish so far have failed completely,” Yokochi says. The main reason for the failure is that when the measures started, the number of starfish had already grown out of proportion, and it was too late for humans to do anything about them. “The government should give a financial incentive for people to kill starfish, maybe buy them and pay a price per each,” Yokochi argues.

He also said that doing so would make economical sense. “Okinawa is a resort area and tourism becomes more and more important for the local economy every year. To attract visitors the ocean should be kept clean and the ocean life healthy. The time to act is now, not tomorrow when it’s too late,” Yokochi concluded.

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