A group of scientists in Australia has announced this week an potentially effective way to eliminate the destructive starfish, crown of thorns, that are feasting on coral reefs in the Pacific ocean.
The crown of thorns is already prominent in the Pacific and Indian Ocean where they feed mainly on coral polyps. Outbreaks of the large and poisonous starfish are blamed for the massive destruction of corals.
The Great Barrier Reef is located in the northeastern coast of Australia and composed of thousands of reef formations. The report by Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that almost half of the coral reef is gone compared to its size 30 years ago.
Clearly, the first phase would be to remove the voracious eaters, starfish, and convince farming operations to reduce their chemical-laden runoffs that victimize coral, and in some cases even support the starfish growth.
James Cook University in Queensland announced their discovery of a bacteria culture that could help in preserving the Great Barrier Reef by killing the culprit, starfish. The protein mixture where the bacteria is cultured was discovered to be capable of destroying starfish within 24 hours.
According to researchers of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the university, the next phase will deal with determining how safe the protein is when it comes to other marine life.
“In developing a biological control you have to be very careful to target only the species you are aiming at, and be certain that it can cause no harm to other species or to the wider environment. This compound looks very promising from that standpoint — though there is a lot of tank testing still to do before we would ever consider trialing it in the sea,” said Professor Morgan Pratchett of the ARC center.
However, this discovery alone is not enough to curb the massive outbreaks of starfish being seen today.