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Reef Report for Saturday, April 22, 2000

Starfish a Thorny Problem

It doesn't get any better than this! With the sun finally tantalizing us with its warmth and wonder, we see an enormous increase in the number of visitors to our renowned Great Barrier Reef. Visibility on most reefs has improved, with 10- 15 metres reported at most sites. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises The winds should remain light at 15 knots blowing southeast to northeasterly. The weather folk also predict a few light showers, which we should expect as it is Easter, and no Easter long weekend would be the same unless it was raining!

Nautilus Scuba Club President Michael Phillips contacted me during the week to give me the lowdown on the club and what itís been up to recently. Nautilus Scuba Club was formed some 20 years ago for local divers to share the sport and experience the joy of diving together. Today they have around 200 members ranging from open water divers, who have just completed their training, to highly experienced divers certified in Nitrox and Tri-Mix. Club dives and social events are organized for the first Sunday of every month.

On April 16, several Nautilus divers traveled to Fitzroy Island on a COTS eradication programme. Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) are a natural inhabitant of coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. When in low densities, starfish feeding causes no apparent long-term damage to the reefs. According to some theories, the feeding starfish may help maintain high diversity on coral reefs by allowing other species to colonize space created when corals are killed.

When starfish numbers are low, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park does not recommend that they be killed. Only when the numbers exceed the capacity of the reef should eradication take place. Damage done by the feeding of large numbers of these starfish can be very dramatic and recovery can take a long time. Despite intensive research, it is still a mystery as to why the population outbreaks occur.

To perform this small tactical exercise, the Nautilus Club obtained a permit and headed off to Shark Fin Bay, an area between Big and Little Fitzroy Islands, where much of the reef has been affected by the COTS. On this trip, 81 COTS were terminated on two dives. Nautilus divers will return on a weekly basis to continue the work. Records will be kept on the COTS and the re-growth of the reef after COTS elimination.

During the next few months, this information will be passed on to the Marine Parks Authority. The Nautilus Club would like to thank sponsors Raging Thunder, Sunlover Cruises, Cairns Scuba Air, and Kirratech Pools for providing a variety of resources. Dive companies: Pro Dive Cairns, Tusa Dive, Deep Sea Diver Den, Great Adventures Dive, and Marlin Coast Divers generously supplied the injecting guns.

Have a fantastic Easter weekend everybody!

(C) Pro Dive Cairns The weekly reef report is written by Sue-Anne Chapman of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the many conversations she has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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