OUTBREAK: Divers on a recent Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) training trip, found eight COTS in a 200-metre radius. Pictured are: Amy Julian, Jono Press, Luke Godfrey, Becc Waghorn, Tristan Gale, Amy Effeney, Haydon Turnbull, Olivia Baily, Ena Ladd, Charlotte Smith, James Spicer, Zac Jesienowski and Ash Telford.
OUTBREAK: Divers on a recent Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) training trip, found eight COTS in a 200-metre radius. Pictured are: Amy Julian, Jono Press, Luke Godfrey, Becc Waghorn, Tristan Gale, Amy Effeney, Haydon Turnbull, Olivia Baily, Ena Ladd, Charlotte Smith, James Spicer, Zac Jesienowski and Ash Telford.

Tourism operators tackle crown of thorns

THE notorious Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) could reach epidemic proportions in the Whitsundays if more is not done, according to findings made on a recent training trip.

On Friday, November 28, local operator Wings Diving Adventures volunteered their vessel Wings 2 for an afternoon at Langford Reef, giving crown of thorns specialist Tristan Gale the chance to educate several local crew members about COTS.

Crews from Whitsunday Catamarans, Anaconda 3, Tall Ships, Pro Sail, Travel Bugs and Tongarra, all volunteered their time and were fascinated by what they learned.

Wings Diving Adventures director Mike Keyte said statistics showed COTS remained the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and its surrounding reef systems.

He said according to information provided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) "if one COTS is spotted on a 20 minute swim, numbers are considered low". "But if there are 15 or more starfish per hectare or more than one starfish is spotted in 20 minutes an outbreak is declared."

Within 10 minutes of exploring the underwater scene at Langford Reef during the trip, six divers surfaced with eight COTS, found in a 200-metre radius.

Mr Keyte said all the divers dropped back down and easily counted another 5-10 or more per buddy pair.

He said these were alarming finds with the devastating effects of COTS clearly visible on the reef.

Nonetheless the trip was considered to be successful overall, with all crew members learning about COTS management through multiple injections of sodium bi-sulphate. Mr Keyte said as local operators continued to implement the GBRMPA 'Eye on the Reef' program into their tours, "they have no doubt more needs to be done to control these outbreaks".


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