Starfish massacre on GBR

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Starfish massacre on GBR

A volunteer dive-team working in the south of Australia's Great Barrier Reef has claimed an unofficial record for removal of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), after killing 47,000 in the space of the first eight days of February.

Bruce Stobo of Kanimbla Charters donated his 25m catamaran for the week so that the team, which also included some park officials, could tackle the coral-killing starfish in Swain Reefs National Park off Queensland.

“It shows people who are organised can make a major difference to the population,” Stobo told the Gladstone Observer.

Twelve divers were under water at any one time, each carrying out three one-hour dives a day. They were armed with “dipping guns”, normally used for inoculating cattle, and had to inject each starfish with a solution of bile salts.

Where the populations were densest, as many as 15,000 starfish a day were reckoned to have been dispatched.

Maximum depth of the dives was 5m, where the maximum coral cover is found.

Stobo said he hoped that a federal funding package of Au$60m, recently announced for GBR protection and including $10m specifically to tackle COTS, would be enough to cover the southern end of the reef, as efforts had until now been concentrated between Townsville and Cairns.

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