The national government, through the Ministry of Ecosocialism (Minec) and the National Institute of Parks (Inparques), designs a protocol for the control and mitigation of the invasive coral Unomia Stolonifera (Acyclonacea, Xenidae) on the reefs of the Mochima National Park, which they share Anzoátegui and Sucre states.
This was reported by Minister Josué Lorca through social networks, who also announced that the monitoring and inspection work, begun in June last year, to identify the areas affected by the presence of the invasive octocoral, in the sector west marine, located in the state of Anzoátegui.
Lorca explained that an average coverage of 85% of the coral (Unomia Stolonifera) was evidenced on the reefs and sandy bottoms of the perimeter of 15 selected islands in the region.
The also president of the National Institute of Parks (Inparques), explained that the observation showed an increase of 60% compared to the evaluation carried out in 2016 in the same areas, a diagnosis that was achieved with the inspection and monitoring that was done.
He indicated that the control and mitigation protocol will be carried out with “the active participation of the Sea Brigade attached to the Directorate of Biological Diversity and the accompaniment of Inparques personnel, together with organizations such as INEA, the Anzoátegui Governor’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office, People, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and the Sotillo Council of Fishermen, Fishermen and Fish Farmers (Conppa).
In the state of Anzoátegui, professionals in the area of diving, marine sciences, as well as volunteer technical personnel from the Pilares Marinos Foundation evaluated the level of specific affectation in Isla de Plata and Playa El Mono, in order to give continuity to the mitigation plan and control of the invasive exotic animal.
Jesús Alvarado, a diver and researcher at the head of the foundation attached to Minec, said that they have prioritized the phase of informing the entire community of Mochima and its nearby islands about the presence of the invader, having as main allies the Fishermen’s Councils, whose members have been notified “about the disaster that this type of coral is causing, so that they are not propagators”, since boats, anchors or fishing nets are the main means of transporting coral to reach areas of the park which so far are not infected.
He also said that investigations continue in that marine area and with continuous visits it is evident that after manual extraction, no more outbreaks have emerged and so far the process has been efficient.
After carrying out the last aquatic monitoring of this stage, Alvarado pointed out that they have been addressing this situation for more than a year and have advanced with the actions related to the extraction of Unomia, which will be strengthened after the presentation of a plan for which currently Volunteer personnel are being trained and are accompanied by work groups to set the extraction schedule and determine priority areas.
The Unomia coral advances in colonies
The Minec warns that in the investigations carried out in the Patanemo bay (Carabobo state) and in Mochima it was determined that the colonies of the invasive coral could be seen in different substrates of the seabed, where its competition for space also allows it to be located on various materials of anthropogenic origin such as: plastic, metals, glass, nets, ropes, rubber and different fabrics.
They also conclude that the death and weakness suffered by corals in the last decade, as a result of climate change, puts the high coverage percentages of Unomia Stolonifera at an advantage over native corals of scleractinian origin, which form reefs in the region.
The information refers that this invasive species is also known as soft coral and came from Indonesia.
The Unomia resembles a plant mat at the bottom of the sea, but up close it resembles a cabbage, which expands.
Experts indicate that its damage lies in the fact that there are no predatory species of this type of coral in the Caribbean, which allows its rapid development and, therefore, the destruction of local species.