“Measures to control the (COTS) plagues on selected reefs should have been adopted in 1969 when a report which I prepared for the Queensland Government outlined the seriousness of the position for the first time.”
- Professor Robert Endean M.Sc., Ph.D (1972)
According to Historian of science Jan Sapp, author of the illuminating book on Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks, "What Is Natural? Coral Reef Crisis", the COTS problem was the FIRST CONTINUOUS GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS.
Besides natural attrition caused by storms and hurricanes, the Great Barrier Reef is under siege by a fourth plague of coral eating Crown of Thorns Starfish which have been eating the Great Barrier Reef alive for the last fifty years. It is this problem that OCEANGUARD will focus its attention on, working to a four point plan below.
THE LONG TERM PLAN
The plan includes for the Great Barrier Reef region to be divided into four working zones. Then on a year round basis, a charter diving boat or boats will sweep reefs in each zone, where dive teams and volunteers will assist marine scientists monitor reefs for starfish populations and their fish predator numbers. Data will also be collected on the sate of the coral on each reef. OCEANGUARD will maintain a computer model from collected data which will be made available to marine institutes.
As starfish populations increase on reefs being monitored and the coral threatened with destruction, a plan to control these numbers will be launched utilising dive teams and volunteer divers. The control method will be by injection of an environmentally safe formula. Overall operation will be under supervision of qualified dive masters. The plan includes helping tourist operators to control starfish numbers on their reefs if called upon to do so.
The plan is to set up a facility to farm fish species which are natural starfish predators such as: Lethrinidae (Spangled Emperor), Balistidae (Triggerfish), Arathron (Puffer Fish) and Labridae (Humphead Wrasse). Then under scientific supervision to reintroduce them back onto selected reefs. A feature of this farming program will be an attempt to cultivate Charonia, (the Great Triton Shellfish) shown above, the most prolific natural predator of the starfish... hopefully before it becomes extinct on the Great barrier reef because of decades of over-collecting.
Our plan includes a series of marine awareness programs to be made for transmission via mobile/cell phone, internet, Free to Air, Cable TV and other platforms. The emphasis will be on good ocean management. Targeting the youth population, these and other specially prepared awareness programs will be available on DVD and distributed through school systems. Travelling school seminars are also envisaged. Education is the first step in preserving our greatest heritage – coral reefs and oceans.
Not to trivialise the recent bleaching event on the reef, which in itself is very serious, but in reality there is no no quick fix to rising sea temperatures. But there is hope in trying to disrupt the breeding season of COTS on the Great Barrier Reef which begins in the New Year and lasts for four months. We have to go to war against this potential threat of millions of more COTS to wreak havoc on an already besieged reef system. If the Government is serious about saving this magnificent colossus, wage war against these monsters instead of spending more on waging war in the Middle East!
Scout reefs in danger zones for COTS congregations as they ready to breed.
Disrupt congregation at least, destroy starfish if possible.
Imperative to start breeding Tritons and other starfish predators.
Lobby education departments to promote ocean awareness programs.
We cannot stop the spawning early next year, however we can disrupt it, giving us precious time to work on a better solution... such as breeding their natural predators. Seventeen years ago, the Oceanguard Society presented a four point plan over five years to the Government which included working in with the Marine authorities and institutions. The genesis of the plan was formed 50 years ago by Oceanguard’s co-founder, Dr Robert Endean.