“Loss of the Great Barrier Reef could well precipitate the greatest crisis mankind has faced since recorded history began.”
– Theo Brown, Consultant, South Pacific Commission on
pollution of the Marine Environment (1972)
John Paterson, a former student of reef crusader Dr Bob Endean with triton specimens at Beaver Reef in 2002.
Video courtesy of Big Blue Office and thanks to Kylie, Brandon, and Quick Cat Cruises, Mission Beach.
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Besides its natural beauty the Great Barrier Reef is a scientific wonderland and an untapped source of pharmaceutical benefits for the human race. But this could all be lost if the present situation on the Reef is allowed to deteriorate further.
Unbelievably, the Great Barrier Reef took 20 million years to form yet it has taken a little more than 100 years of man’s interference to devastate it.
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In the breeding season of the crown of thorns starfish (COTS) tens of thousands of these coral eating monsters will congregate to breed, with each female adult starfish capable of producing 60 millions eggs. Just 4,000 adult Crown of Thorns Starfish can eat one acre of live coral in a week.
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Lethal injection into crown of thorns starfish
Video courtesy of AMPTO Org
The Bigger Picture
Our oceans are in a state of deterioration and the life it supports is diminishing rapidly.
The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest ecosystem, more diverse than the Amazon rainforest is under attack on a number of fronts...
Crown of Thorns
The first outbreak of these coral eating predators descended on the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region in the early 1960’s. This devastated huge tracts of coral in every ecosystem, some of which have not recovered to this day. The Great Barrier Reef suffered the most damage by any coral ecosystem and by the end of a third outbreak in the 2000’s, most of its enormous marine infrastructure had been affected. The destruction was catastrophic.
We are currently in the final period of a fourth outbreak. The starfish will congregate in large numbers to spawn resulting in millions more starfish to attack and destroy whatever live coral is in their path.
If no action is taken to reverse the situation this time around, the fate of the Great Barrier Reef will be sealed. For after each outbreak cycle the coral recovers less and less until it will reach the point of no return.
The giant triton is the most prolific predator of the crown-of-thorns starfish. Due to the value of their beautiful shell, the over collecting of tritons over many decades broke a major link in keeping the starfish population in check on the Great Barrier Reef. By the early 1960’s, the giant triton numbers had been decimated.
With the advent of scuba gear, high-powered spear guns and fast outboard motors, professional spear-fishermen eliminated massive numbers of other crown of thorns predators. Fish such as the giant grouper and the humpback wrasse were nearly eradicated before that practice was outlawed. Local demand at fish markets potentially decimated smaller starfish predators like the spangled emperor and triggerfish. So, this soon broke an important link in controlling the starfish population on the reef.
In 1998, in the International Year of the Ocean, the waters of the Great Barrier Reef warmed to their highest level in over 100 years and the reef suffered unprecedented coral bleaching, transforming huge areas of coral translucent white. Bleaching occurs when the delicate balance between algae and coral polyp is destroyed.
When the coral is subject to sporadic adverse changes such as a rise in sea temperature, this causes the coral to release increased numbers of algae, leaving the coral polyp transparent with only the white calcium skeleton apparent. If the algae doesn’t return, the coral starves to death. Most corals can survive infrequent bleaching episodes. However, repeated or prolonged bleaching events will kill them.
Disastrous back-to-back 2016/17 coral bleaching episodes reinforced the views of many marine scientists and climatologists around the world... convincing them that rising sea-temperatures are attributed to human-induced climate change and unless this catastrophic problem is addressed, the future of coral reefs is grim.
As the population continues to increase along the coastline of Queensland so does the amount of pollution. This dramatically affects the coral colonies of the Great Barrier Reef, silting up all inshore reefs along the coastline... leaving them devastated!
Nothing causes the nutrient level of the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to change more than that attributed to agricultural run-off. Cane farming in particular has ballooned over the last seven decades. The pesticides used to grow crops are washed into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef via coastal rivers and creeks. This causes changes to nutrient levels which in turn affects coral development and is a source of food for crown of thorns starfish in their larvae stage of growth.