Million dollar defence for reef

Monday December 9th 2013

Million dollar defence for reef

The Government will spend an extra $1.1 million to boost protection for the Great Barrier Reef against the deadly crown-of-thorns starfish, as another outbreak attacks sections of the World Heritage-listed site off Far North Queensland.

The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) can destroy coral faster than it can regenerate and is one of the most significant threats to the reef. In recent decades, COTS were responsible for 42 per cent of coral loss.

Although COTS are normally found in reef environments, pollution and run-off entering the reef has led to a population boom, causing considerable damage to the reef.

The funding will provide for an extra boat and crew for the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, meaning COTS culling efforts can be doubled into the new spawning season. Culling crews currently use a breakthrough one-shot injection of poison that is harmless to other marine life.

With this more efficient control method, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators estimate they will be able to cull at least another 80,000 COTS from the reef.

Sections of the reef between Cairns and Cooktown were in the grip of a deadly COTS outbreak, the Opens external link in new windowABC reported on November 7, the fourth since the 1960s. According to scientists, the plague of over a million starfish cover hundreds of kilometres and are moving south.

[Watch video above]

“Today’s funding announcement complements the Australian Government’s election commitment to a $2 million Reef 2050 Plan for crown-of-thorns control and supports the existing $5 million commitment to manage starfish and fund research to improve their management,” said Minister Hunt.

Mr Entsch praised the culling efforts of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and welcomed the new funding.

“Since control efforts began in June 2012, 180,000 starfish have been culled from Queensland waters,” Mr Entsch said.

“New funding for the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators will enable them to use an extra boat to double their efforts in culling starfish.”

The Australian Government’s Reef 2050 Plan will ensure water quality entering the reef is improved each year. Farmers will be supported to improve their practices to reduce nutrient, pesticide and sediment runoff.


VIDEO: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Youtube