The news about the natural reef environment can be so overly bleak, it’s nice to hear some progress coming out of Australia that bodes well for the future of the Great Barrier Reef. The Crown of Thorns starfish, Acanthaster placi, is a well known destroyer of coral reefs with ravenous hoards of this echinoderm being capable of blazing a trail of dead corals with alarming speed.
The Australian government has for years tried a plethora of different techniques for removal and eradication of the Crown of Thorns starfish to preserve their Great Barrier Reef but previous efforts have been inefficient, labor intensive, and otherwise ineffective at achieving this goal. A new method of lethal injection developed at James Cook University can kill a Crown of Thorns starfish within 24 hours with a single injection.
The new injection method can be used against 1,000 Acanthaster on a single 40 minute dive and it has succeeded in eradicating more than 250,000 Crown of Thorns starfish from the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland over the last two years. Environment Minister Greg Hunt was quoted as saying “It’s necessary for the reef and it’s the single best hope we’ve had in dealing with the crown-of-thorns since people have been working in this space.”
Better yet, the efforts have been successful enough that project operators of the Crown of Thorns eradication program “have noticed a significant increase in coral cover” and the removal of more than a quarter million of the pest starfish has prevented the spawning and release of literally billions of eggs. More work is needed to continue the fight against the Crown of Thorns’ onslaught against delicate coral reefs with research also being performed to develop a contraceptive treatment.
Despite all the pressures being placed on coral reefs, news like this against one of the major factors in the loss of coral cover is very encouraging. Coupled with sustainable reef management and progressive environmental policies, the Great Barrier Reef and other hotspots of coral abundance and diversity have a fighting chance at remaining some of the world’s most beautiful natural places. [ABC Australia]