COTS Control Program

RRRC Factsheet

Crown-of-thorns Starfish (COTS) Control Program


The ecological, economic and World Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are threatened by outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). COTS 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 amenable to management intervention with immediate results. With an active COTS outbreak underway in the Port Douglas – Whitsunday region, and increasing pressure on the health of the GBR due to other threats (such as climate change-induced mass coral bleaching and mortality events and poor water quality), it is increasingly urgent that COTS control efforts are as effective as possible.

As part of the GBR COTS Control Program, RRRC has responded to this need by bringing together the expertise of the marine tourism industry and the management agency with the latest scientific knowledge from commissioned applied research projects under the NESP TWQ Hub. This successful multi-organisation partnership has achieved demonstrable improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency of COTS control at sites of high economic or ecological importance on the Great Barrier Reef.

Uptake of the early recommendations from NESP TWQ research projects focused on applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles to starfish outbreaks. This IPM approach has already increased the efficiency of the COTS Control Program by at least 35%. This means that more starfish can be controlled (and reef area protected) per dollar invested in the COTS Control Program. In addition, connectivity modelling generated through the NESP TWQ research projects is providing information on both COTS outbreak movements and coral larval dispersal. These results inform operators and managers to make decisions about the most effective locations to deploy limited control resources and have the greatest impact on reducing COTS populations.


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