Breakthrough against coral destroying starfish

A Queensland university has made a breakthrough in the fight against Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) , which has significantly damaged the Great Barrier Reef.

And it is a simple household staple of the kitchen.

A new paper released on Wednesday by the James Cook University (JCU) in northern Queensland stated injecting the coral-eating pest with household vinegar kills it just as effectively as the current expensive pesticide used.

Author of the report Lisa Bostrm-Einarsson said vinegar had been tried unsuccessfully in the past, but JCU scientists refined the process which resulted in a 100 percent kill rate.

The starfish are currently breeding at epidemic levels and are one of the main reasons for the decline in live Great Barrier reef coral.

Bostrm-Einarsson said the findings were exciting.”Currently divers use 10 or 12mls l of ox-bile (pesticide) to kill each COTS. It’s expensive, requires permits and has to be mixed to the right concentration. We used 20 mls of vinegar, which is half the price and can be bought off the shelf at any local supermarket.”

The COTS in the trial were all dead within 48 hours of being injected.

Bostrm-Einarsson said the dead COTS were fed to fish in lab trials with no ill-effect, but there needed to be more field trials to be sure the process is safe for other marine animals.

“There’s no reason to think it won’t work or it’ll be dangerous, but we have to be sure,” she said in the statement released by JCU on Wednesday.

She said the findings could have big implications for developing countries without the means to acquire and use the current drugs.

“It has been estimated there are between 4 and 12 million of the starfish on the Great Barrier Reef alone, and each female produces around 65 million eggs in a single breeding season,” she said.

“They managed to kill around 350,000 last year with two full- time boat crews. While it would take an insane effort to cull them all that way, we know that sustained efforts can save individual reef.”

Large scale sea trials of the vinegar method will begin by the end of the year.

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