COTS Control Program

RRRC Factsheet

Crown-of-thorns Starfish (COTS) Control Program


The economic, ecological and World Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are imperilled by outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), which are estimated to have been responsible for nearly half of all GBR coral cover loss between 1985-2012. Of the major threats facing the GBR, COTS outbreaks are arguably the most directly and immediately amenable to management intervention. With an active COTS outbreak underway in the Port Douglas – Townsville region and generally increasing pressures on the health of the GBR (such as climate change-induced mass coral bleaching and mortality events), it is increasingly urgent that COTS control efforts are as effective as possible.

RRRC has responded to this need by bringing together the starfish-controlling expertise of the marine tourism industry and the decision-making needs of the management agency with the latest scientific insights from a specially-commissioned applied research program. This successful multi-organisation partnership has already achieved demonstrable improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency with which COTS can be controlled at sites of high economic or ecological importance on the Great Barrier Reef.

Uptake of the early recommendations from NESP TWQ research projects applying Integrated Pest Management principles to starfish outbreaks has already increased the efficiency of the COTS Targeted Control Program by at least 35%. This means that more starfish can be controlled (and reef area protected) per dollar invested in the Targeted Control Program. In addition, connectivity modelling generated through the research projects are providing information on both COTS outbreak propagation and coral propagule movement, helping operators and managers make decisions about where they can best deploy limited control resources to have the greatest impact.


Video courtesy of AMPTO


Video courtesy of AMPTO


News Videos

Indigenous teens working to protect Great Barrier Reef


Media Releases

05/01/2018 - Crown-of-thorns starfish control program protecting key reefs from coral-eating predator

23/10/2017 - ‘Hero’ rejoins fight against Reef-eating predator

29/09/2017 - Divers graduate after joining the fight against crown-of-thorns starfish

07/04/2017 - Crown-of-thorns control vessel helps repair Whitsunday reefs after Cyclone Debbie

21/12/2016 - Efforts doubled in fight against coral-eating foe

18/03/2016 - Crown-of-thorns cull passes 400,000

08/12/2015 - Workshop helps set guide research on crown-of-thorns starfish

10/07/2015 - Training program boosts employment and protects Reef at the same time

29/06/2015 - RRRC welcomes funding to fight coral-eating monster starfish

RRRC Factsheet