One of the largest in the world, the spiny and toxic starfish prey on hard or stony coral polyps - there is an outbreak of the coral-destructive crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) within the Verde Island Passage (VIP) in the province of Batangas specifically in the waters of Mabini and Tingloy.

This April, the DENR CENRO Lipa through the Conservation and Development Section together with the staff from the Regional Office under the Conservation and Development Division (RO-CDD), personnel of CENRO Calaca, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Municipal LGU of Mabini and Tingloy, and volunteer divers from Anilao Macro Spotters Association, Inc. and freedivers from the Batangas Varsitarian in Tingloy, conducted COTS collection.

Prior to the start of the activity, a briefing on COTS cleanup/ collection was provided by DMO III Jefferson Cruz of the Regional Office, where he elaborated on the procedures of how to conduct the collection using the Green Fins COT Cleanup guidelines and highlighted the importance of the activity. DMO Cruz also explained some causes behind the COTS outbreak such as the loss of its natural predators (e.g. Triton’s trumpet, Napoleon wrasse, white-pufferfish, titan triggerfish), continuous rise in the sea surface temperature due to climate change intensified by some anthropogenic activities. Mr. Nelberto Ilagan, an experienced volunteer diver, also delivered a short dive safety briefing and provided a site illustration to the group for a better dive plan for the conduct of COTS cleanup.

The said activity was held at Tingloy, Batangas, particularly on Coral Garden dive site located west-southwest of Sombrero Island and on the shallow part of Sepoc dive site with a depth ranging from 7 to 14 meters and 1 to 2 meters, respectively.

About 1500 adult-sized COTS ranging from 15-70 cm in diameter and averaging 10-18 thorny arms were collected at the Coral Garden Dive Site and Sepoc Dive Site with an estimated cleaned-up area at about 14.28 hectares. The collected COTS were buried offshore of Brgy. Marikaban, Tingloy, Bat