JOINT MEDIA RELEASE WITH HON WARREN ENTSCH MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LEICHARDT & EWEN JONES MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR HERBERT
More marine tourism operators, community organisations and commercial reef users now have the opportunity to take part in the fight against crown-of-thorns starfish infestations on the Great Barrier Reef.
A single injection method, which has so far been restricted to divers in the Australian Government’s crown-of-thorns starfish control program, is being made available to operators and groups that have a legal permit to lethally inject the coral-eating predator.
New guidelines which outline the technical, insurance and safety requirements have been released for those who have, or are seeking, a permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Currently, 27 marine tourism operators and two community groups have a permit to carry out crown-of-thorns starfish control.
But there is increasing interest from the community to help fight the current outbreak in the northern part of the Marine Park, and our view is the more trained divers we have on the frontline to protect coral, the better.
The new handbook guides divers and snorkelers on how to search for the destructive starfish, such as looking for fresh white scars on coral, and how to safely prepare and use either a single shot of bile salts or a multi-shot method that uses sodium bisulphate. Both methods are harmless to other marine life.
The guidelines also provide key pointers on resourcing and training requirements, and the need for repeat visits.
In addition, new ‘how-to’ videos have been released on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s website, detailing how to assemble the necessary equipment, as well as pre-dive preparations.
By equipping divers with this hands-on practical advice and making the single-shot method more widely available, we are able to boost the capacity of our crown-of-thorns starfish control program and ensure the work is as effective as possible.
Importantly, it also supports the work of the tourism industry, which has been at the forefront in trying to keep crown-of-thorns starfish numbers low on reefs, particularly at prime tourism sites.
While the entire Reef is not affected by the crown-of-thorns starfish, a population explosion of this venomous invertebrate has occurred between Cairns and Lizard Island in recent years.
The Australian Government’s crown-of-thorns starfish control program has so far protected coral on more than 80 reefs and culled 300,000 of these coral predators.
The crown-of-thorns starfish, which is native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, is a major threat to the reef. Destroying the coral-eating predator is essential in order to protect the Great Barrier Reef for future generations.