The Ian Potter Foundation has awarded a $500,000 Commemorative Grant to the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation to advance their work in controlling outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS). On Lizard Island, located off the coast of Far North Queensland, 270km north of Cairns, researchers at Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) have been working to understand and counteract the impact of this pest that is decimating areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Recent research undertaken at LIRS by two post-doctoral fellows from James Cook University have led to the most significant advancements in this area in more than three decades. This is a critical juncture for further investment and research.
This project will allow Lizard Island Research Station to look at promising proposals to discover new methods of COTS eradication or control. Under the program, over the next three years grants will be awarded to different researchers including established academic researchers, reef managers or industry specialists from Australia or overseas. Existing relationships with ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will facilitate liaison to ensure that there is no duplication of COTS research efforts.
Since 1986, AIMS estimates that there has been a 50 per cent reduction in mean coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef and that 40 per cent of this can be attributed to the coral being eaten by COTS. There have been four documented COTS outbreaks, the most recent of which began in 2010.
The destruction caused by COTS has implications beyond the reef itself. If COTS are able to degrade the reef uncontrolled, it will impact tourism, the state’s economy and the lives of those in the vast community surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. In 2012 the economic contribution of reef-associated tourism was estimated at $5.7bn with employment from tourism alone at 64,000 full-time jobs and is the dominant economic activity in this area.
Chief Executive Officer of The Ian Potter Foundation, Janet Hirst said, “This project resonated very strongly with our commemorative grants goal of building communities and supporting organisations to contribute to resilient and viable communities. Not only does the Great Barrier Reef need to be protected for its own sake, but also for the communities who neighbour and depend on the reef.”