Local communities and government agencies have joined forces with the Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S) to tackle the growing threat posed by alamea (crown-of-thorns starfish) in Samoa.
The spiky alamea is an increasingly common sight in the coastal waters of Samoa.
These venomous starfish are not just a danger to those unfortunate enough to tread on them, they are also a carnivorous predator that prey on coral reefs. Dr. Posa Skelton, from the S.C.S, explained that outbreaks of alamea are a threat to the livelihood of many Samoans who rely on coral reefs for food.
Alamea eat corals and during an outbreak they can destroy large areas of reef, removing valuable habitat for fish and other marine species. “The damage to coral reefs makes us and our shoreline vulnerable to storms and sea surges,” he said.
The S.C.S partnered with the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F) and the Division of Environment and Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (M.N.R.E) to run a Community Alamea Assistance Workshop in Apia at the Fisheries Division, M.A.F training room.
The workshop, which took place on 3 December 2015, was attended by 35 mayors and representatives from villages around Upolu. At the workshop, participants learned more about alamea to better understand how to collect and remove them safely.
The participants were also taught why outbreaks occur and how to control the number of alamea in outbreaks near their village.
Sala Josephine Stowers, President of the Samoa Conservation Society, believed that local communities are key players in combating outbreaks of alamea.
“We believe that communities have a very strong role to play in the management of alamea and the control of outbreaks. The workshop and partnerships with the government to train community representatives and leaders is a step towards enabling communities to tackle this problem in their villages.” Stuart Young, co-trainer and S.C.S member said: “There are a number of ways that people can help to fight the alamea menace.
One of these is to reduce the flow of nutrients into lagoons as these have been shown to increase the number of baby alamea in the water. Another important strategy is to be careful not to over-harvest the species of conch and fish that eat alamea. These species are the guardians of the coral reefs and we must do what we can to protect them.”
The technical contributions of officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment were instrumental in building the knowledge of the participants.
“As experts in the field, government staff and officers offer invaluable knowledge and information on ways to combat the alamea in the villages. They have been doing this work for many years and we value their experience in dealing with this problem.” Mr. Young said.
The workshop was funded by the German aid organisation Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (G.I.Z) and was implemented by the S.C.S in partnership with M.A.F and M.N.R.E.