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Crown of Thorns

Crown of thorns clearance in an applied conservation project which is easy to learn and just takes a little practise to perfect.

Crown-of-thorns are one of the most damaging creatures of tropical coral reefs. They are voracious predators that release the contents of their stomach on to the coral. Digestive juices then liquefy the coral ready for consumption. One Crown-of-thorn can devour 65 sq. ft. of reef per year.

The Crown-of-thorns is the second largest Seastar; the largest is the Sunflower Starfish, it receives its name from the venomous thorns that cover its body. They are endemic to the Red Sea and the Indian and Pacific Ocean and they can be found wherever there are tropical reef systems.

They are almost completely covered in protective venomous spines capable of causing great pain in humans. The most alarming survival mechanism they possess is when they are stressed out; they immediately start their fertilization cycle and simultaneously release a pheromone or chemical hormone that creates a chain reaction with every Crown-of-thorns in the area to trigger their fertilisation mechanisms.

Their venomous spines are not tempting to most predators but there are a few that will take on the Crown-of-thorns. In spite of this, the Giant Triton (a mollusk or snail and the ones that we sometimes use or call a conch which is blown during tiki torch lighting ceremonies). Harlequin Shrimp and some of the larger reef fish like the Humphead Wrasse (rare in Fiji) and sometimes Triggerfish (but they tend to prefer sea urchins as they are easily blown over). No matter how they have appeared an outbreak must be stopped to ensure the survival of the reef.

Achieved So Far

We are constantly clearing the crown f thorns whenever we visit either Beverly Campground in Taveuni. We also clear at the Beach House and other village homestay locations.

It is hard to record the impact of the removal process but our philosophy is 'ever little counts'. We have seen such a devastating coral bleaching epidemic since January 2014 that anything which threatens reef life should be stopped as soon as we can.