The Great Barrier Reef is on the brink of another outbreak of the coral-devouring crown of thorns starfish. The crone of thorns starfish is one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef because they eat their size in coral cover every day -- and some weigh as much as 80kg.
Executive director, Col McKenzie, of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators in Cairns, Australia, is urging Environment Minister Tony Burke to invest in a campaign to kill the invasive pest.
There have been three recorded series of crown of thorns outbreaks since the early 1960s and each lasted between 10 and 15 years. The last was from about 1995 to 2005. Studies suggest that outbreaks are triggered by elevated levels of nutrients following floods and cyclones. Conditions are now ripe for another outbreak because major floods were linked to increased spawning of crown of thorns starfish.
Hundreds of crown of thorns starfish have been found on reefs off Cairns, near Lizard Island, Green Island and Opal Reef off Port Douglas, he said. "We're on the brink of another outbreak," Mr McKenzie said. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has also recently received more frequent reports of crown of thorns starfish between Cooktown and Mission Beach.
Another outbreak is particularly concerning because coral cover on the Reef is at its lowest point since the Australian Institute of Marine Science began keeping records in 1985. Mr. McKenzie wants the Australian Government to invest in a dedicated dive boat and 10 divers to kill the pest by injecting them with sodium bisulfate before the next summer breeding season.