Guam’s Coral Partners Mitigate Thorny Issue

The Takeaway: NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program joins others in tackling damage from crown of thorns sea stars.

Crown of thorns sea stars are large predators that have wreaked havoc on Guam’s coral reefs. Each animal can eat more than 100 square feet of stony coral per year, and its venomous thorns repel most predators. The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program in Guam supports a multi-partner effort to spread the word about the problem and remove these sea stars from the reefs.

Partners have raised local awareness through flyers, social media, and training sessions, and it shows. Since 2018, the team has received over 100 reports of sea star sightings, enabling the Guam Coral Reef Response Team to target dive sites hardest hit by these predators.

Divers use a special applicator to inject a natural substance called ox bile that kills the sea stars without harming the environment or other reef creatures. The response team has conducted successful removal efforts at nine sites so far, including the popular tourist and diver destinations of Gun Beach and Hap’s Reef.

Other major partners in outreach and eradication include the nonprofit Eyes of the Reef-Marianas and the Guam Coral Reef Initiative, a multi-partner organization. (2019)

Partners: Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office, Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans, Guam Department of Agriculture, Guam Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, and University of Guam