Crown-of-thorns starfish (also known as COTS) are marine invertebrates that feed on coral. They occur naturally on reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and when conditions are right, they can reach plague proportions and devastate hard coral communities.
Sighting one on its own is not too much concern as they are native to the reef, but it is certainly an early warning sign that we wanted to record with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Since 1962, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks have had a major impact on the many reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. A fourth outbreak is currently underway in the World-Heritage Area. AIMS runs a major crown-of-thorns starfish monitoring program on the Reef. This long-term program has shown that outbreaks begin in the north and migrate southward over a 15-year period, with ocean currents transporting larvae between reefs. By sighting these animals, the marine park managers can target the deployment of the COTS control vessels to limit the effects of these potentially devastating coral chompers!
As part of Ocean Rafting’s site stewardship program, our team is trained to spot, identify, report and where appropriate cull these coral predators to help preserve and ensure a positive future for our stunning Great Barrier Reef.