Victory over thorny pest
THE OCEAN Safari team from Cape Tribulation have had a victory against the plague of crown of thorns starfish, with the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators conducting a control out on Mackay Reef.
The team in their vessel Hero have been working throughout the Great Barrier Reef visiting hotspots for COTS sightings, and Ocean Safari marine biologist Fin Lambermon said they came out to Mackay last Thursday.
“They came to Mackay due to Ocean Safari reporting their daily sightings to the GBRMPA through the Eye on the Reef and sightings network,” she said.
“They do a COTS control by snorkelling and diving, finding COTS and then injecting them with sodium bisulphate using a drench gun similar to that used to drench sheep, only these ones have needles instead.
“After one afternoon the AMPTO team of four divers and four snor- kelers had culled 250 COTS and they stayed for one more day, so the number is more like 300-plus.”
The control did not remove every single COTS but Ms Lambermon said Ocean Safari have now been given their own permit to cull the pest starfish to help keep the outbreak under control.
“Currently COTS are in mammoth numbers, their population has exploded all through the GBR,” she said.
“If they are not kept in check, they have the potential to devastate our reefs which of course, has knock- on effects to animals and plants living on the reef and to tourism operators, tourists, locals and other stakeholders of the GBR.
“The end result (of the cull), we are still seeing quite a few, snorkelling today I counted five in 35 minutes, including a juvenile.
“Now it is just a case of doing our bit, injecting any we see and continuing to lobby to get Mackay turned into a green zone to further protect it from other threats.”