Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

World Environment Day delivers new protection for the Great Barrier Reef

Media release
5 June 2012

Environment Minister Tony Burke today announced new funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish.

In marking World Environment Day today, Mr Burke said the Gillard Government will engage the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators to remove crown-of-thorns starfish under a new $1.43 million initiative.

“Young crown-of-thorns starfish eat algae until they are around six months of age when they start eating coral and grow more rapidly, eventually reaching almost one metre in diameter. They spend about half of their time eating and when in large numbers, they can destroy coral faster than it can regenerate,” he said.

“There is emerging evidence that floods in the summers of 2009 to 2011 increased the flow of nutrients into the reef creating an environment in which young crown-of-thorns starfish flourished.

“That is why we are taking action now to control starfish numbers and support the resilience and diversity of the reef, which is one of the world’s natural treasures.”

Mr Burke said today marks the 40th anniversary of the United Nations’ World Environment Day.

“Protecting our oceans from threats like acidification, coastal runoff and pests like the crown of thorns starfish will be a top priority for Australia at Rio+20,” he said.

Mr Burke said the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators has a proven track record of engaging its members to control crown-of-thorns starfish through work funded by the Australian Government.

“The project will be implemented in close cooperation with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science,” he said.

“Today’s announcement builds on the government’s commitment last year of $380,000 to help the reef recover from severe cyclone and flooding events, which included funding to control crown–of-thorns starfish.

“It is part of the Gillard Government’s broader commitment to work with communities and industry to protect the unique values of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.

“This includes the $200 million Caring for our Country Reef Rescue program, which is improving the quality of water entering the reef lagoon by assisting land managers to adopt sustainable land management practices.

“It also complements recent commitments of the Gillard Government in the last budget to provide $8 million to ensure the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority can continue its management and community-based Reef Guardian programs; funding of $12.5 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which raises funds for research to support the resilience of the reef and its ability to respond to climate change, and funding of $1.8 million a year to implement the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan.”