The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is well known throughout the Indo-Pacific region as a corallivore. When this species occurs in extremely high densities (outbreak) the resulting destruction to live coral cover can be extensive. Little is known about previous population outbreaks that have occurred in the Republic of Maldives and very few published data are available.
A preliminary study has been conducted in Ari Atoll where an outbreak is on going. The preliminary results have shown that most of the reefs surveyed were characterized by a severe outbreak of A. planci with the decrease of coral cover. The starfish were often found in aggregations surrounding and covering the live coral colonies. Information have been collected using the features provided by the hosting Resorts and the MaRHE Center.
Our future challenge will be to understand the dynamics of the ecological relations between the corallivore starfish and the coral reef ecosystem in order to establish a proper conservation strategy for the local government. The project is supported by Planhotel Hospitality Group. The main work will be conducted on the two Planhotel Resorts islands in the Maldives: Athuruga and Thudufushi in Ari Atoll. The diving activities will be under the supervision of IDive Diving Center.