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Crown of Thorns starfish are thought to have lived naturally on the Great Barrier Reef for thousands of years, but in numbers low enough that the rate of coral destruction was less than the rate of regeneration. In recent decades human impacts such as nutrient loading and fishing pressure have tipped the balance in favour of the COTS, resulting in "blooms" that can have a significant impact on coral health.
CEO of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, Col McKenzie, has been involved in COTS management on key reefs of economic and conservation significance for decades. In this episode he explains how recent bleaching events have heightened the need to protect thermo-tolerant coral strains from COTS blooms - and how the AMPTO program has made inroads into preserving coral health on key reefs.
A side-benefit of the COTS program has been the creation of training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth in the Wet Tropics Region, as Col explains.