Protecting the Great Barrier Reef: The Whitsundays Crown of Thorns Starfish Control Program

The Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage site, faces numerous challenges alongside with the Whitsunday Islands.  The Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays Crown of Thorns Starfish Control Program aims to minimize the impact of our coral reef systems. The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) outbreaks significantly threaten the reef’s ecological health. The COTS Control Program, spearheaded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and various partners, aims to mitigate the impact of these coral-eating starfish. This article explores the multifaceted approach to controlling COTS outbreaks, emphasizing the importance of coral predation protection and the preservation of high-value reefs.

Crown of thorns starfish Image courtesy of Photographer L. Zell. Copyright and License Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority).

The COTS Control Program: A Comprehensive Approach

Surveillance and Manual Culling

The Crown-of-thorns starfish control program operates under the guidance of the Marine Park Authority, employing professionally trained divers to manually inject COTS with lethal substances such as bile salts or vinegar. This method, developed in collaboration with James Cook University, has significantly increased the efficiency of culling operations. The Whitsundays Crown of Thorns starfish control program offers strategic surveillance and monitoring to ensure that efforts are focused on areas where they can have the greatest impact.

Research and Innovation

Scientific research plays a critical role in the program’s success. Innovations like the single injection cull method have streamlined the culling process. The National Environmental Science Program’s research projects managed through the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, continue to provide valuable insights that guide effective pest management strategies.

Partnership and Community Involvement

Partnerships with the Reef tourism industry and community engagement are vital components of the COTS Control Program. Programs such as the Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the involvement of Cairns tourism-industry divers in areas like the Whitsunday Islands underscore the collaborative effort required to protect the reef.

Whitsundays Crown of Thorns Starfish Control ProgramImage courtesy of Photographer D. Schultz. Copyright and License Commonwealth of Australia (Reef Authority).

The Great Barrier Reef’s ecological and economic values are under threat from COTS outbreaks. Through comprehensive strategies like the Whitsundays Crown of Thornes Starfish Control Program, manual starfish injection, and innovative research, there is hope for protecting the reef’s biodiversity. This collaborative effort, supported by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Marine Park Authority, and community engagement, underscores the importance of partnership in conservation.

Whitsundays Crown of Thorns Starfish Control Program FAQ

How does the Whitsundays Crown Of Thorns Control Program decide which reefs to target?

The program uses strategic surveillance and monitoring data to identify high-value reefs that are most at risk of COTS outbreaks. These areas are then prioritized for culling operations.

What is the impact of COTS on the Great Barrier Reef?

COTS outbreaks can lead to significant coral loss by feeding on coral polyps. Controlling their numbers is crucial to maintaining healthy coral cover and the overall biodiversity of the reef.

Can the public help with the control of COTS?

Yes, the public can contribute by reporting sightings of COTS to the Marine Park Authority using the Eye on the Reef app. This information helps in targeting control efforts more effectively.

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Nath J

Nath J

Hi, I’m Nath J, your go-to expert for everything Whitsundays Tourism. Since 2001, I’ve been immersed in this incredible destination, accumulating 22 years of industry experience. My journey has taken me from Operations Manager at Tallarook Sail and Dive to running my own businesses like Ripple Effect Online. I’ve given workshops on direct tourism bookings and even authored an ebook, Whitsunday Islands: A Journey through Paradise.

Why trust me? I hold certifications like “Whitsundays Tourism Hero” and “Respecting First Nations Cultural Protocols in Australia,” both issued by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council. My work has garnered testimonials from tourism business around the region, praising my unique, genuine approach to tourism marketing.

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