Sea Critters... Crown of Thorns
Crown of Thorns is a spiky menace sweeping across the coral reefs of the word; eating its way through years and years of coral growth and destroying the habitat of thousands of marine animals and plants. The Crown of Thorns is a type of sea star within the family Cnidaria, its presence is noted by the huge white patches of decimated coral it leaves in its wake.
As a GVI volunteer you may get the chance to improve the situation and prevent it from spreading further. By participating in a Crown of Thorns eradication you help the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) in locating and killing Crown of Thorns on several locations around the Seychellois islands.
On the 13th of July 2014 two volunteers, Georgia and Andreas (me), along with two staff members, Liv and Kyle, were chosen to go with the MCSS on a Crown of Thorns eradication. None of us had done it before so we were all excited even though none of us knew what to expect.
After an early breakfast, a 45 minute drive and a short and confusing stop at the wrong dive centre, we ended up at the right one, Big Blue Divers, in Beau Vallon. There we met up with the people from the MCSS and had a quick briefing before we left for the boat. On the boat we were divided into two groups: divers and snorkellers. The divers had the task of killing the Crown of Thorns by spearing them with crude iron “swords”. The snorkellers would manage the communication between the boat and the divers. They would also be pulling the baskets where the divers could put the impaled Crown of Thorns.
On the first wave, Georgia and I snorkelled, Liv and Kyle dived. As soon as Georgia and I got into the water the divers had already started filling up the baskets and we had to swim back and forth to the boat to empty the overflowing tubs. The dive soon turned into an extermination and during our time in the water we managed to dispatch 116 Crown of Thorns, which is a lot compared to the previous record of 79.
If the first dive was an extermination then the second dive was far from it. During the dive the whole group only recovered 10 Crown of Thorns, of which Georgia and I extracted one each. We had switched positions for the second dive so now we were diving and Kyle and Liv were snorkelling. The first one we found really put up a fight. It had lodged itself under and between corals and did not want to come out. After five minutes of hard work and a lot of teamwork, we finally got it out. Not long after that Georgia found another one, which she pierced and removed without any problems.
We had a short break after the dive where we got some lunch from the street market in Beau Vallon. The food was amazing and well needed. All four of us wanted to be on the final dive but we only had two kits, so we ended up playing rock-paper-scissors to determine who would go. Kyle and Georgia won (always stick with rock). This was the longest dive of all, over an hour. This was very tiring for Liv and I snorkelling on the surface, but great fun for the others. Here the divers stepped up the game and extracted 49 Crown of Thorns and by doing so reaching a final count of 175.
Even though I only removed 1 out of 175 throughout the day did I have a great time, a lot of fun, hard work and the nice feeling of doing some good. The MCSS will conduct follow up dives to monitor the reefs progress in recovering from the Crown of Thorns outbreak, verifying that the eradication was successful.
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