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The Outbreak of the Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) is one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef. Read more about how You can help save the Reef!

Facts About the Outbreak:

  • The COTS is native to the Great Barrier Reef and other Reefs around the world.
  • The population of COTS has natural cycles and historically, about every 17 years there have been outbreaks.  Previous outbreaks have naturally receded, but the outbreaks are becoming more frequent and lasting longer.  Between cycles, the reef isn’t getting time to recover and this has contributed to the reefs coverage being in steady decline.
  • The Great Barrier Reef’s coverage has declined to about half the coverage since 1985 and could halve again by 2022!
  • The reduction has been attributed to:
    • 48% storm damage
    • 42% COTS
    • 10% coral bleaching
  • The factors that have contributed to the Outbreak are still being debated, but the current outbreak could be sustained, making this Outbreak bigger than ever.
  • It’s necessary to manage the COTS population so that other marine animals that rely on the reef will don’t lose their habitat.

The COTS population is the most manageable element in the effort to support the recovery of the Great Barrier Reef.

What’s Being Done About It?

There are long term solutions such as the management of farming nutrient run off, natural predator protection and climate change efforts globally, but the Great Barrier Reef needs a helping hand.

Short-Term Strategies:

Are you visiting the Great Barrier Reef?  Do you have a smart phone or underwater camera?

Turn your visit to the reef into a contribution to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef for future generations!

  • Human Dive Team Culling:  A coordinated and year round effort of 12 divers are manually injecting and controlling COTS populations.  These efforts are being managed by the not-for-profit organisation AMPTO – the ‘Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, and they are being very effective in preserving critical reefs, but the Great Barrier reef is too large to entirely manage this way.
  • QUT have developed a small autonomous submarine that can do the work of the divers. It’s early days for the COTSBOT which can identify and inject COTS making the population management of COTS scalable and more economical.
  • AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science) are researching how the Triton Snail is one of the few natural predators of the COTS and how this can be used in the fight to reduce COTS populations.

How Can You Help?

  • Take pictures of COTS for the QUT COTSBOT.
    • Your images of COTS in varying locations, depths lighting, partial light and depths will refine the electronic detection capabilities.  See the attached instructions by QUT on how you can help on this link:
    • COTSBOTs may eventually be deployed on reefs around the world, making an even bigger impact on the preservation of reefs around the world.
  • Report your sightings on your smartphone – Download the Eye on the Reef SmartPhone Ap.
    • The reef is truly massive, and data gathering is expensive.
    • The App was built by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is a government preservation agency.

How Are We Helping?

  • Awareness and Education is the first step.  If you’ve booked a tour with us, we will send you you some info just before your tour.  It will show you how your can help if you would like to.
  • Help us build awareness of the issues.  Share this article or share support for the organisations that help preserve our Great Barrier Reef.

Also check out our page with some cool videos explaining the Outbreak, causes, efforts and the technology.  Click here:

(This article originally appeared on Reeffree Tours. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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