Why starfish should not be thrown into the air

November 14, 2018 - 7:15 PM
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Starfish tossers
A group of alleged teachers caught the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after they were seen tossing starfish into the air. (Facebook/Zach Villaver)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is investigating a group of alleged teachers from the Department of Education after they were seen tossing starfish into the air during a beach trip in Palawan.

Starfish must not be exposed to air while being handled as it would damage their water vascular system responsible for their movement, digestion and respiration. Instant death will occur upon the air exposure.

The pictures were initially shared by a Facebook page named “Palawan Supernews,” although they have deleted their post as of this writing.

Some social media users were able to share screenshots and pictures of the post before its deletion.

While it’s not verified whether the group were educators of DepEd or not, their actions caused an online uproar that eventually caught the attention of the DENR.

The government agency in a comments thread responded that the Biodiversity Management Bureau has already notified the field office in Palawan, as well as the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

They also noted that an information campaign would be prepared and launched to the public in relation to the matter.

DENR also tagged the Twitter account of DepEd, although the latter has yet to respond to the allegations.

Proper handling of starfish

Live starfish need to be handled with care even though they might look sturdy.

People must “gently pick it up and not bend or break its arms,” according to a website dedicated to providing starfish-related information.

The starfish must be wrapped in a moist towel or be placed in a “handy marine environment” filled with seawater. They must be fully submerged as they can only breathe through the tubes found on the surface of their body.

The chocolate chip starfish

The starfish that were seen being tossed in the air by a group of alleged teachers are scientifically called the Protoreaster nodosus.

Its common name is the horned sea star or the chocolate chip sea star due to its dark chocolate brown tubercles (or protrusions) seen on its surface reminiscent of chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip starfish
A chocolate chip starfish must not be exposed to the air as it may damage their water vascular system responsible for primary functions. (Wikimedia Commons/File photo)

It is an ornamental type of starfish that can be found either in the most shallow lagoons or in Indo-Pacific oceanic reefs no deeper than 75 feet.

They are also commonly displayed in aquariums where the water quality must be superior and the nitrate levels, low.

Chocolate chip starfish cannot tolerate sudden changes in water chemistry which includes oxygen levels, salinity and PH levels. — Featured photo from Zach Villaver via Facebook