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Coral Expeditions fights coral eating starfish with vinegar

July 10, 2017 Cruise Deals No Comments Email Email

Coral Expeditions, Australia’s pioneering cruise operator and member of Ecotourism Australia, has embraced a common condiment to address the significant impact of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) on the Great Barrier Reef.

New research from James Cook University has revealed that a common household condiment, vinegar, can be injected into the coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish, with a lethal effect. The vinegar has undergone rigorous environmental impact assessments to ensure there is no threat to other marine species and the reef ecosystem.

Population outbreaks of COTS in the Great Barrier Reef have had a devastating impact on the health of the coral, accounting for a significant portion of coral loss in the last 30 years – though many pristine reefs can be still be found by experts, such as Coral Expeditions.

Whilst methods of controlling this coral predator have been available for some time, this new control method has made conservation efforts assessible to small and remote operators such as Coral Expeditions. 

Coral Expeditions has been part of GBRMPA’s COTS programme for some years, with Coral’s on-board marine biologists monitoring the reef for COTS. As Coral Expeditions goes far beyond the ‘day-tripping’ public to more remote locations, this monitoring has been vital to GBRMPA to give a more detailed picture of the health of the reef.

However, the availability of this new method will enable Coral Expeditions to make a significant difference to the reefs they visit.  As they have several exclusive moorings on the reef and knows this region better than most, with three continuous decades under their belt, their input will be crucial to the success of this COTS program.

Coral Expeditions Marine Biologist, Rebecca Finlayson comments, ‘Coral Expeditions has recently undergone all the processes to be able to administer vinegar injections to COTS so moving forward we aim to play a proactive role in identifying and injecting COTS. With every cruise departure, we will have an opportunity to make a real difference as sustained small-scale efforts to control COTS numbers important to the health of the reef. I am personally delighted to have the opportunity with Coral Expeditions to tackle this important environmental issue head on.”

Guests on Coral Expeditions cruises have also been encouraged to be a part of the conversation process, indicative of the immersive approach Coral Expeditions offers guests. Already guests can; take advantage of the resident on-board marine biologist who oversees all marine activities and is always on hand for questions, experience the “touch and learn” interactive displays onboard, and enjoy on-board lecturers and screenings. Now guests will also be encouraged to identify the COTS during snorkelling or diving and bring them to the attention of the Coral Expeditions crew. They will then be able to watch the experts inject the COTS on reefs that are experiencing COTS outbreaks.

Whilst Coral Expeditions’ commitment to the COTS initiative is a top priority, all sailings will still take guests to the most pristine and marine life rich areas of the reef, to give an unparalleled reef experience that showcases this unique region at its best.

Mark Fifield, Group General Manager of Coral Expeditions comments, ‘Since pioneering overnight cruises on the outer reef more than 33 years ago, Coral Expeditions has been committed to the preservation and conversation of the reef, so we are very grateful to the incredible work of James Cook University as it allows us to play a greater role in protecting the reef. We look forward to working with these organisations and local tourism operators in the fights against COTS.”

Coral Expeditions’ Great Barrier Reef itineraries, which range between three and seven nights depart Cairns every week of the year. Prices start from $1,596 per person.

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