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Last day of diving in Tiomanon the Peninsular Malaysia side. A day devoted to the dreaded acanthaster, a coral-eating starfish...
Crowns of thorns
This Saturday is my last day of diving in Tioman. I'll allow myself a day without bubbles, tomorrow, so that my suit has time to dry, as I'll have to pack my bag again.
I have to be in Johor Bahru on Monday evening, to take my plane to Sandakan (Borneo) on Tuesday morning.
A vast ecological operation takes place this weekend on the island, organized every year in Tioman, at the initiative of the government and the local office of tourism and environment: the harvest of the "crowns of thorns", literally the "crowns of thorns". L'Acanthaster planci, of its scientific name, is a member of the starfish family. It feeds on coral polyps and is capable of destroying whole sections of the reef when its population is too dense.
This is the case in Tioman, where these invasive starfish bristling with poisonous spines threaten the fragile coral ecosystem. Started yesterday, the harvest of acanthasters mobilizes the 14 diving centers of the island.
A tricky harvest
Today, it is our turn! After a first and remarkable exploration dive on the site of LabasAfter a short dive on a rocky island surrounded by a beautiful coral reef off Tioman, we split into groups of three for the next dive. I am with my friends Maz and Alex. We are given a net bag and a hook to pick up the dreaded acanthasters.
Maz handles the hook, Alex holds the net, which gradually gets heavier. The end of the hook must be gently passed under the starfish, which then rolls up in a ball, like a hedgehog. It is important not to stress the animal too much and to be careful not to rub the stinging spines. My friends apply themselves. I do the scouting and point out to them the acanthasters I find. Then I admire the work by taking pictures...
Carried away by our impetus, we will make a very long dive of more than one hour, not too deep, in the 5-10 meters zone and will go back to the surface with a full bag, heavy with these crowns of thorns waterlogged.
We are all three, by far, those who have unearthed the most... and not a little proud to have completed our mission!