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The coral reefs of Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture, are being devoured by an explosive increase in poisonous starfish, and only five volunteer divers armed with tongs are combating them to save the rich marine environment.

The crown-of-thorns starfish (“oni-hitode”) originally lived in subtropical seas. But after the 1990s, they started appearing off Kyushu and Shikoku as well as Wakayama, apparently because of global warming and eutrophication caused by the development of coastal areas of Japan.

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