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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'm giving myself a day without bubbles tomorrow, so that my wetsuit 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 are threatening the fragile coral ecosystem. The harvesting of acanthaster started yesterday and mobilized the 14 diving centers of the island.
A tricky harvest
Today, it's our turn! After a first and remarkable exploration dive on the site of LabasAfter a few hours of diving on a rocky islet 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. One must avoid stressing the animal too much and be careful not to rub against 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...
Driven by our enthusiasm, we will make a very long dive of more than an hour, not too deep, in the 5-10 meter zone and will come back to the surface with a full bag, heavy with these crowns of thorns soaked with water.
The three of us are by far the ones who have hunted down the most... and we are proud to have succeeded in our mission!