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Coral shelves dying after typhoons and poisonous starfish attacks

Date Posted: 2007-12-06

Japan’s third largest coral shelf, situated between Iriomote and Ishigaki Islands in the southernmost area of Okinawa, is dying.

The Ishiiri Shelf Coral Lake runs along the ocean line between the two islands, and experts say damages inflicted by last summer’s massive typhoon are wreaking havoc with the fragile ecosystems. The coral is also becoming weak after attacks by poisonous Crown of Thorns starfish.

Kanji Kokura owns a dive shop on Kuroshima Island, and he reports strong waves spawned by the typhoon have attacked the shelf, and now virtually all coral is falling down. “It’s a horrible sight that all corals are getting white and falling down,” the 56-yer-old diver says, “and green coral are all white too. Right now, even the live coral are weak and sick as a result of the poisonous starfish.”

He isn’t optimistic things are going to get better. “A long time ago, the corals were supporting peoples’ lives and protecting them from typhoons, but now damages are happening faster than corals can grow.” Kokura adds sadly, “If it keeps going that way, in the future coral will all be gone. We are very afraid of this.”

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