GCCA+ SUPA: Saving the coral reef around Mauke Island, one taramea at a time

Over the years efforts have been underway in the Cook Islands to eradicate taramea or crown-of-thorns starfish which feed on coral and can rapidly destroy coral reef ecosystems if their population drastically increases. During the Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition in 2013, a total of 530 taramea were collected from 10 locations in Aitutaki. Two years later, another taramea outbreak was detected in Aitutaki. Since 2015, taramea outbreaks have also been detected elsewhere in the Cook Islands.


The European Union funded Global Climate Change Alliance Plus – Scaling Up Pacific Adaptation (GCCA+ SUPA) project has engaged the Kōrero O Te ‘Ōrau (KO) to collect, compile and analyse traditional knowledge and its application in selected islands in the southern group. Collecting data, engaging the school students in marine conservation and conducting outreach activities are part of the project scope. During the first visit the need for increasing awareness on taramea and its regular removal from reefs was confirmed and this will be part of the outreach programme on the next visits.


Local youths were trained in free diving techniques, the safety of free diving and how to handle taramea in the water. This activity, which took two days, was prioritised as it was important to address the infestation so as to protect the coral reef ecosystem. The area impacted was mapped and underwater footage were taken.