A second crown-of-thorns starfish control vessel hits the water today as part of efforts to protect Great Barrier Reef health by culling coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish over the next three years.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority awarded the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators a $5.6 million tender to operate the second control vessel.
The new control vessel is being funded through the Australian Government’s $140 million Reef Trust.
During its maiden voyage the vessel Venus II will target starfish control offshore Cardwell, including Rib, Trunk, Bramble and Little Kelso reefs.
RRRC managing director, Sheriden Morris, said: “The extra vessel allows increased research capacity into more efficient ways to control crown-of-thorns starfish populations.”
“Every adult coral colony we can protect produces larvae to repopulate other reefs downstream, thereby helping the Reef to regenerate.”
Since its introduction, the control program has culled more than 400,000 crown-of-thorns starfish. The focus to date by the vessel MV Hero has been on 21 key reefs that are either popular tourism sites or locations with strong currents that can spread outbreaks. These sites span 75 per cent, or 940 square kilometres, of the reef habitat offshore of Cairns.
The Venus II extends control efforts southward from Cairns to Townsville, protecting up to an additional 1000 square kilometres of reefs.
Follow-up surveys show the culling has successfully protected coral cover and kept the adult crown-of-thorns starfish population to below outbreak levels in the Cairns region.