Friday, May 25, 2007

Cruel Death

I dive Lau Lau Bay a lot. It’s a short drive from my house, almost always calm and has extremely easy access which is a plus when carrying a housing and a full set of lights. It also constantly amazes me with things like turtles and octopi, two turtles and one octopus just today. It almost always delivers something new either in “holy crap I’ve never seen that before” or more commonly “I’ve never seen that HERE before”! Today was one of those days. I saw the first Mantis Shrimp I’ve seen on Saipan. Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllaris) I’ve seen them in Indonesia but not here. These guys are cool with funky eyes and a serious attitude. They have been known to charge out from a spot of protection and ram a divers camera hard enough to crack the glass of the housing! The one I saw today was pretty small and out scurrying on the sand until he realized I had spotted him. It was the end of the dive – that always happens at Lau Lau too. Something really cool at the end of a dive with little air or battery power! Battery power was the issue today so the footage is not the greatest. I’m going to dig up the stuff from Indonesia!
Before we get to what amazed me on the dive I’m going to lash out at the idiot who decided to play God and in doing so sealed an absolutely miserable fate for a creature not well understood. No matter which side of the fence you stand on the Crown of Thorns (Acanthaster planci) controversy, I think everyone will agree this would be a horrible way to die for anyone or anything. More info.

To who ever did this - how about we go for a dive – ever had the chance of playing war games with another diver underwater? I’d love an opportunity to pay you back on behalf of marine life everywhere. If you’re an instructor and students witnessed this act your license should be pulled. Where, in any of the teachings of diving, does it suggest we kill the things we see rather than observe them without disruption?

Ok rant is over. Here’s the good stuff! Just a quick sample, it’s why every dive at Lau Lau is a good dive!


Brad said...

Hey Mike, since you clearly have strong feelings about the COT issue, I'm going to send you a link to a Scuba Board discussion going on right now about whether it's right to kill off COT or not.

I don't know much about the problem and don't really have an opinion either way yet)....however....the site you link to actually says:
"the most effective control method is to inject starfish with a concentrated solution of copper sulphate. Previous methods have involved injection with ammonia, ammonium hydroxide, compressed air, acetic acid and collection by hand."

Personally, I can't imagine being injected with copper sulphate, ammonia or the other things would be a pleasant way to die either. So, why, specifically do you object to what that diver did? Is it that you object to killing COT or you think chemical injections are better? If so, can you help me understand why so?

From my work on the Mississippi River Restoration Project, I am pretty much against anything that puts chemicals INTO the water. Once you inject thousands and thousands of COT starfish with that chemical...where will it go when the COT starfish dies? It must stay in the water...and ammonia can't be good for anything in the water.

Like I said, I don't know much about this problem...I'm reading your linked site now, so please don't think I'm defending what this guy (or gal) did....I'm just asking so I can better understand the issue.

I'll send you an email soon about the Scuba Board thread.

scubatripp said...

Sorry Brad I did miss your comment.

I have not looked at the scubaboard thread but will. I imagine it is similar to debates that have come up in the past. If we could say one thing for sure about the topic that is people feel strongly one way or the other. I linked to the articles you mentioned because I felt of the ones out there they gave a decent overview.
Personally I feel we still don't have all the answers. In some places under certain conditions (ie numbers are extremely large) that elimination in some manner may be necessary but ideally there is an already existing counter balance that can be used. Besides the injections this article also suggest that protection of the crowns natural predators could also be effective management.

Specifically with regards to the video my first reaction was what a horrible way to die. When you think about it there is probably no perfect way for a man made death and in reality does a crown of thorns really care how it ultimately dies, probably not but given the choice of a lethal injection vs. a rock on top of my head and essentially drowning I'll take the injection!


Brad said...

Mike, thanks for the explanation. The scuba board thread/discussion was lost when their server crashed. I'm still really new to diving and the ocean environment so I really had no idea what the fuss was about. Maybe once I'm diving regularly, I'll be able to see them for myself and get a better idea what they are or are not doing to the reefs.


Greg said...

Thanks for posting this video and your comments. Regardless of where you stand on the COTS issue, it is illegal in the CNMI to kill starfish without a special permit that would allow you to do so. There are also biological implications of well-intentioned people who are not educated about the marine environment taking "control" measures into their own hands. Often times divers attempt to kill Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) by methods such as cutting them into pieces or the method you show in your video. As Brad mentioned, there is a "prefered" method of control that involves injecting them with a poison. This is because research has shown that other methods simply do not work or actually make the problem worse. When radially symetrical invertebrates such as starfish are cut up into pieces, the pieces can each regenerate into new individuals. So people think they are killing one and they are actually making more. I have also read that when the starfish are stressed/threatened they may release their eggs into the water, making the issue even worse. I suppose one could argue that the COTS would have released eggs at some point regardless... but the point is that if you don't know what you're messing with, there may be unintended negative consequences. If you have concerns about COTS or want to start a discussion about control measures and their pros/cons, talk to the biologists at CRM, DEQ, or DFW. Specifically, John Starmer at CRM, Pete Houk at DEQ, or Mike Trianni at DFW. The CRM/DEQ guys are coral reef biologists, while DFW has management authority over the marine critters. I'd like to see these guys at some of our diver get-togethers!