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Expert: poor water quality increases starfish

Date Posted: 2010-09-09

Oceanographers, divers and other water specialists are meeting to discuss reasons why there’s a resurgence in poisonous Crown of Thorns starfish in Okinawa waters.

Led by starfish specialist Ken Okachi, a series of lectures in Yaeyama’s Ishigaki City focused on why the starfish, often called Crown of Thorns, are increasing at a time when coral and other living sea creatures have been declining. “It’s been happening here in Okinawa and Australia since 1960,” Okachi says, “so we have to consider the starfish coming back as a fact, even though coral is not recovering.” Okachi says there’s a need for more water quality research, as well as studies of baby starfish distribution.

Lecture participants heard Okachi explain his theory on “Larvae stage survival, where if rainfall comes during spawning season of the Crown of Thorns, phosphors and nitrogen chemical compounds and salts coming to the ocean from land are creating a lot of plankton that provides feed for the baby starfish.” He says it’s possible humans pumping sewage, dirty water or left over foods into the water supply are contributing, but cautions more research is needed. The Yaeyama Islands district has recorded a large outbreak of Crown of Thorns starfish when there’s too much rainfall, but Okachi says “we don’t know exactly why, at least not yet, so we must study these baby starfish.”

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