Vic­tory over thorny pest

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By ANGELIQUE PAT­TER­SON

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.”

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