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Coral-eating starfish again threaten Okinawan waters

Date Posted: 2002-01-24

The onihitode, the crown-of-thorns starfish that eats live coral and that previously had wreaked havoc around Okinawa, is once again propagating in the vicinity of the Kerama Islands at an abnormally high rate of speed. Divers from Zamami Village have caught more than 10,000 starfish since the beginning of January, and the heaviest density of the destructive creatures in the last decade has been observed at Ishigaki, prompting calls for emergency measures. The onihitode swept through an extensive area that included Okinawa from the 1960s to the 1980s, destroying almost all the living coral that crossed its path. With the help of a subsidy from the government of Japan, local officials were able to exterminate over 2 million starfish between 1974 and 1998, when the subsidy ran out. Since then, prefectural officials have been monitoring Okinawan waters but have been unable to resume the campaign to destroy the predators due to a lack of funds.

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