WORKING TOGETHER: Bruce Stobo, skipper and owner of Kanimbla, looks over aerial photos of the reef to work out the best places to drop anchor with Sacha Taylor from QPWS.
WORKING TOGETHER: Bruce Stobo, skipper and owner of Kanimbla, looks over aerial photos of the reef to work out the best places to drop anchor with Sacha Taylor from QPWS. Mike Richards GLA160118STAR

Team start mission to beat crown of thorns

PICTURE if you can the shoulder of a crown of thorns starfish.

This is the spot where trained divers, contracted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, inject a mixture of bile salts and water to kill the starfish.

A specialised team will head out from the Gladstone marina today to do exactly this.

Steven Moon, project manager for the crown of thorns control program since 2015, is in charge of a 17-strong team which will head out to Swain Reefs to battle an outbreak of crown of thorns starfish, reported to GBRMPA late last year.

Mr Moon works for the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, contracted by GBRMPA to control the outbreak.

The current mission is a collaborative effort involving Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff, volunteers and a private charter company.

Bruce Stobo, owner of fishing charter boat Kanimbla had offered his boat and the services of himself and his four crew to help the AMTPO-led team.

He said the weather looked promising for the trip.

"We're expecting 15-20 knots the first day then for the foreseeable future 10-15 knots, which will be ideal,” Mr Stobo said.

"There'll be large tides when we first get there, but they'll be dropping off.”

Mr Stobo, who's also a qualified dive instructor, said the culling team would dive to depths of about 10m, as the coral was most prolific in shallow water.

Mr Moon said the outbreak of crown of thorns on Swain Reefs was unusual.

"There's always been crown of thorns on the Swain but this incipient population that's occurring now, it's very strange, we haven't seen crown of thorns in such huge numbers before on the Swains,” he said.

"It would appear that they are eating their way north.

"What we have to do is make sure we get in front of them and try to push back and limit those populations.

"Personally I hate the little buggers,” he said with a laugh.

"But it's something we have to deal with.”



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