Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Changing ecosystem may wipe out Penghu octopus

SHALLOW WATERS:Satellite photographs show that the coastline has changed dramatically and marine animals no longer have caverns and boulders to hide in

By Liu Yu-ching and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An octopus native to the waters north of Penghu County is pictured in an undated photograph. The species has yet to be named.

Photo courtesy of the Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau of Penghu County Government

A species of octopus native to the waters north of Penghu County is on the brink of extinction, county officials said yesterday.

The octopus normally lives off the coast of Yuanbei Village (員貝) and near Jibei Village (吉貝) between the months of February and May, but over the past few years it has rarely been seen, Yuanbei Warden Chen Tien-jui (陳天瑞) said.

Chen believes the octopus’ declining population is due to changes in the ecosystem.

Normally the octopus lays its eggs in the intertidal zone in the northern part of the county between the Lantern Festival and Tomb Sweeping Day.

Aside from Yuanbei and Jibei, the octopus was normally found near Citou Wharf (岐頭碼頭) and Jhongtun Village (中屯) in the county’s Baisha Township (白沙), as well as in Magong City’s Chongguang Borough (重光), Chen said.

The intertidal zone near Yuanbei has been largely filled with sand and stones, making the area suitable for some species while others have been eliminated, he said, adding that mantis shrimp and eels have also begun to disappear from the area.

The main reason is that the caverns and boulders that the marine animals would use to hide in have been buried, he said, adding that octopus species that like shallow waters are also losing places to nest in.

Hsieh Yung-liang (謝永亮), who collects satellite photographs of the county, said that the changes to the coastline over the past seven years are strikingly evident.

A photograph from 2011 shows blue water around the coastline, while one of the same coast from 2017 shows a coastline that is white from the shells, sand and gravel that have raised the seafloor, he said.

Another effect of a rising seafloor is a loss of coral, Hsieh said, adding that aside from the coral itself, the marine life it houses is being pushed out.

If the situation is not addressed soon, some indigenous marine life, including the small octopus native to the county, is likely to become extinct within 10 years, he said.

Merely prohibiting the fishing of the octopus would not save it from extinction, he added.

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