Young Māori Divers Hunt Invasive Crown-of-thorns Starfish to Save Coral Reefs

Environmental News from Cook Islands

  • The island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is experiencing an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish (taramea, Acanthaster planci), which could jeopardize the survival of its surrounding coral reef.
  • Local environmental organization Kōrero O Te `Ōrau has been tackling the outbreak since 2020 by training young Māori people in scuba diving and running regular expeditions to remove taramea from the reef and bury them inland.
  • The work has contained the outbreak on two sides of the island by collecting over 3,700 crown-of-thorns starfish, ultimately mitigating its impact on reef health. However, ongoing efforts are required.
  • The project is also upskilling young Cook Islanders in marine management theory and practice.

Every Saturday, a group of Cook Islands Māori youth slide into scuba gear, grab sticks from the ironwood trees (Casuarina equisetifolia) growing along Rarotonga’s beachfront, and head to the…


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