Volunteers help kill 'record' 47,000 crown of thorns
THE crown of thorns population at Swain Reefs has taken a massive blow after a group of divers tackled the destructive starfish head-on this week.
Bruce Stobo and his crew of divers returned to Gladstone harbour on Thursday morning from an eight-day trip to the reefs.
Mr Stobo donated his catamaran, Kanimbla, for the expedition, which eradicated a record amount of the starfish.
"In the eight days we were able to kill 47,000 COTS (crown-of-thorns starfish) and unofficially that's the most amount of starfish done in that amount of days," Mr Stobo said.
"We had volunteers on board as well as people from Queensland (Department of) National Parks and we went out there trying to ascertain how big the problem was and what sort of impact we can make to try and help it.
"From those figures it shows people who are organised can make a major difference to the population."
Mr Stobo explained the elimination process, which is simple but requires plenty of divers.
"We have a dipping gun they use for cattle and we have a needle on the end. It has a measured base of 10ml of bile salts and that comes in a concentrated formula, which we add water to," he said.
"Then the scuba divers go down and they inject each individual starfish.
"We had 12 guns and 12 divers in the water at any one time and on some days at the larger populations we were getting 15,000 a day.
"We did three dives per day and were allowed to spend an hour under the water each time; so each diver would spend about three hours underwater each day.
"We got to a depth of no more than five metres because that's where most of the coral is.
"We can see areas out there which are absolutely pristine and beautiful and see areas where the crown of thorns are eating because the coral is bleached white and then we can see where the algae is growing over the top of the coral where they've been.
"We can stop the progress of the starfish and there's a definite line to where it's beautiful to where it's not."
Mr Stobo hopes the Federal Government's recent $60 million funding announcement to protect the Great Barrier Reef will be spread across both ends of the natural wonder.
From this amount, $10 million will be allocated towards tackling crown of thorns.
"If we can attract some of that money down to the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef we can make a big difference," Mr Stobo said.
"They're going to go from three boats and will increase that to eight which will help control the starfish on the reef.
"At the moment the control of crown of thorns has been up between Townsville and Cairns but with the increased funding and awareness of the problem we have down this end hopefully we can get vessels to come down here as well."