Guam's coral reef response team has noticed a rise in crown of thorns sea stars, a spiny reef predator that can eat up to 100 square feet of coral per year.
"This doesn't sound like a lot, but if you have thousands of hungry sea stars on a reef, they can devastate an area very quickly," wrote Coral Reef Resilience coordinator Whitney Hoot in a statement from the Bureau of Statistics and Plans.
The response team asks community members to be on the lookout for these sea stars, but warns that they can be dangerous to handle. According to the statement, injuring a sea star can release a new generation of the sea stars. If a star is spotted, the team asks people to note the location, size and number of sea stars in the area, and fill out a report at eormarianas.org, send an email to EORMarianas@gmail.com or call 475-9684.
Reporting and removal
Sea star "reporting and removal could help keep our coral reefs healthier and diverse by protecting vulnerable types of coral," according to the statement.
To control the population, once the sea stars are located, divers will inject the sea stars with an ox bile mixture, which kills the sea star without damaging the reef or other marine life. This method has also been used in Australia and American Samoa.
Crown of thorns sea stars are native to Guam's reefs, with occasional population spikes, according to the statement. Scientists believe these spikes may be attributable to water pollution.