Since 2012, Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) started a countermeasure against outbreaks of Onihitode (demon starfish) which devours coral reefs. By checking the distribution of baby Onihitode, prediction of their outbreak time and place has been made to prevent their outbreaks.
According to an official from OPG Nature Conservation Section, since 2008 Sekisei Shoko devastated coral reef incident, there has never been any prominent Onihitode outbreak in the seas surrounding Okinawa, but there is a high possibility that outbreak could occur every several years. “If an Onihitode control method based on biological science is developed, there would be less labor required, which could lead to reduction of economic spending for this issue.”
Yoshikatsu Nakano, the chairperson of Reef Conservation Committee in Japanese Coral Reef Society welcomed the OIST-Australia collaborative finding, and made the following comment with a high expectation. “Research on Onihitode has not sufficiently been developed worldwide. I believe the finding this time would be an important step for further elucidating the mechanism of massive outbreak.”
An owner of a diving shop in Kadena town, who has been working for controlling Onihitode, also welcomed the research outcome, saying, “If we could prevent Ohinitode from devouring coral reefs, we would be able to conserve our beautiful seas and promote the tourism industry here.” On the other hand, acknowledging that Onihitode being a part of ecosystem, the owner gave a cautious view stating, “It would be better to avoid an excessive control on Onihitode population, which may bring another type of ecosystem destruction.”