Ocean Rafting is proud to continue its ongoing site maintenance and site stewardship under a recent funding opportunity – The Reef Protection Initiative. The $3.2 million initiative is part of the Australian Governments $1 Billion Covid-19 relief and recovery fund to support regions, communities and industries severely affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Ocean Rafting is one of only 17 operators along the entire Great Barrier Reef to be involved in this initiative which sees qualified staff visiting, surveying and protecting their sites on the GBR. This week when surveying one of our favourite bays on Hook Island, we stumbled across this interesting sighting.
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!