Workshop on of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) management

TRAINING WORKSHOP – Following our investigations on the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) we encountered on the coral reefs of Southeast Sulawesi, we took this year the first step towards a coordinated response to the COTS oubreaks threats by organizing a training workshop in Kendari with all relevant stakeholders in the province.

COTS control operation using injection kits made in Kendari.
Afifah, one of the participants in the “Managing COTS oubreaks on the coral reefs of Southeast Sulawesi” field training, injects a crown-of-thorns starfish with a locally made injection kits. © Risfandi ‘Otonk’ / Langkoe Dive Center

The project

Following our discussions with Pascal Dumas, a marine biologist researcher specializing in COTS at IRD New Caledonia, and faced with a local demand for solutions, we initiated in 2021 a new project on the detection and management of COTS outbreaks on the reefs of the province. This project fits within the larger framework of our activities for the protection of coral reefs in Sulawesi.

COTS outbreaks being one of the main causes of coral reef mortality in the Indo-Pacific and likely the only one against which it is reasonably possible to act at the local level with a definite impact, this project became an obvious choice.

The aim of the project is to replicate in Sulawesi a strategy developed by Pascal and his colleagues in New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu where coral reefs are monitored by local users triggering, when a COTS outbreaks is detected, the intervention of a dedicated team.

A remote training workshop

This activity is the result of a collaboration between IRD – through its representation in Jakarta – and our local partners, Naturevolution Indonesia and Toli Toli Giant Clam Conservation. The training was
organized in collaboration with the manager of the protected areas of the province (BKSDA Southeast Sulawesi) and the agency of marine resources (BPSPL Sulawesi, Kendari section), but also with
researchers from the two main universities of Kendari.

To better introduce the training, we prepared in English and in Indonesian a training document (10 pages long!) covering the main aspects related to COTS ecology, the outbreak phenomenon and the possible solutions to deal with it.

The workshop took place over a conference call at the end of June. Switching between presentations, videos and interactions between Pascal and the participants, the main aspects regarding the management of COTS were covered.

Theoretical training workshop on COTS outbreaks management in Indonesia
Imut, now operational director of Naturevolution Indonesia, managed the training on the Kendari side.

Field practice training in Labengki

Training was then continued in the field. Eager to spread knowledge and awareness as much as possible, we invited most of the diving clubs in the province. The team – now made up of about twenty people – went to Labengki to practice the monitoring protocol (actively searching and counting COTS over a 10-minute timed-swim), analyzing the results (something that can be counter-intuitive), and injecting COTS.

Not having been able to purchase dedicated COTS injection kits, Memed, who already joined the 2018 crown-of-thorns starfish investigation and today director of Naturevolution Indonesia, made 5 injection kits using parts available in Indonesia (locally in Kendari and on Tokopedia). This allowed us to test the feasibility of locally manufacturing the kits, with the aim of publishing online a DIY tutorial so that every diving club in Indonesia can make their own injection kits themselves.

Check photos and video of the training on our Instagram and Facebook channels.

Media outreach

Thanks to the presence of Ino, journalist, cameraman and diver, the workshop was echoed in local media, for instance here et there. In the reportage below (in Indonesian with English subtitles) broadcast on local TV, Habib, our local partner, introduces the issue of crown-of-thorns starfish and describes the field activities carried out during the training. If the video below doesn’t display properly, it is available here on YouTube. IRD also published a communiqué on their website.

What’s next for the project?

First, we published online all of the resources we have compiled for this training – training document, slides, videos, tutorial for manufacturing the injection kit, etc. – in order to set up a COTS Resource Center in both English and Indonesian: Crown-of-Thorns Starfish: Information Hub. This will allow all coral reef stakeholders to acquire training, and to purchase or manufacture the necessary equipment.

In order to go even further, we are in discussion with institutional partners to set up an online platform to report COTS citizen observations for Sulawesi island on the model of the OREANET network, thus allowing management institutions and specialized organizations to raise an alert when COTS outbreaks are detected by citizens.

Partiticpants to the COTS management training workshop. Sulawesi, Indonesia.
The field training participants at Toli Toli GCC’s headquarters. Spirits are high!

Learn more about this project

For the preservation and rehabilitation of reefs in the heart of the coral triangle

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