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Crown-of-thorns starfish

The Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Program has received its first-ever, long-term funding commitment, reflecting the program’s success-to-date building Reef resilience. 

Crown-of-thorns starfish, or COTS as they are commonly called, feed exclusively on live coral, causing significant damage to reefs. Of the three major causes of coral decline – tropical cyclones, coral bleaching events and COTS outbreaks – only COTS outbreaks can be mitigated through direct local management. 

The Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Program monitors and manages outbreaks through targeted culling, delivered by way of a single injection of household vinegar or bile salts. 

The Program has been named a finalist in the Biodiversity category for the 34th Banksia National Sustainability Awards – Australia’s longest running and most prestigious sustainability awards. The nomination recognises the outstanding contribution of the program partners in delivering a paradigm shift in our capacity to defend coral and biodiversity on the Great Barrier Reef using research findings from the Australian Government funded National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Tropical Water Quality Hub. Read more.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, funding has been allocated every one to two years. In August last year, the Australian Government promised $125 million to the program, through the government’s billion-dollar Reef Protection Package, to ensure the program’s operation for 2022–2030.  

This secure, long-term commitment reflects the program’s success delivering cost-effective outbreak control in all sections of the Great Barrier Reef – northern, central and southern. 

The program is now able to have at least six boats out on the water, monitoring and managing outbreaks, and employs more than 140 people including Traditional Owners. 

For more information about how we manage COTS to build Reef resilience, check out our COTS site

Updated 5 Apr 2023
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