Volunteer divers have killed almost 47,000 crown-of-thorns starfish on the southern Great Barrier Reef in just seven days, breaking a record in the process.
Thousands of the starfish were discovered only months ago eating their way through parts of Swains Reef, which lies 250 km off the central Queensland coast.
Gladstone charter operator Bruce Stobo led a group of 25 volunteer divers on the nine-day mission. “They tell me, unofficially, that it’s the most amount of starfish killed in a single trip in that time,” said Mr Stobo, who donated his catamaran to the mission. Similar missions have culled up to 30,000 crown-of-thorns starfish.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife detected the infestation during a survey in November last year, but this did not prepare the divers for what they saw.
“Everyone was absolutely surprised,” Mr Stobo said.
Crown-of-thorns starfish were so thick in some areas that they were layering on top of each other to get to the coral.
Starfish were injected in the shoulder with bile salts, a job easier said than done as the divers had to contend with swells and currents.
Mr Stobo said the culling trip was never going to kill all the crownof- thorns at Swains Reef, but it did show them how big the problem was.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife were also part of this expedition, surveying the reef and identifying where the concentrations of starfish were.
Mr Stobo welcomed the Federal Government’s $60 million funding announcement to tackle crown-of-thorns starfish in the Great Barrier Reef and hoped some of that money would be funnelled to the southern end.
Injecting starfish ‘quite hard work’
At the moment, injecting the crown-of-thorns starfish with a single shot of bile salts is the most effective method, but it is not easy.