Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Minister for Climate Change
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water

Further funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Media release
18 July 2013

New funding of $5 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from coral-eating predators was announced today by Federal Minister for the Environment Mark Butler.

Part of the Caring for our Country grants program, the Reef Rescue component will fund the control of the crown-of-thorns starfish in the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and support continued research into starfish management.

Mr Butler said the crown-of-thorns starfish can destroy coral faster than it can regenerate and is one of the most significant threats to the reef.

"Although crown-of-thorns starfish are normally found in reef environments, pollution and run-off has led to an explosion in their numbers."

"Long term, the work of Reef Rescue is ensuring that run off to the reef is reduced each year through supporting farmers to improve their practices. But short term, we need to have divers injecting the starfish and eradicating them," Mr Butler said.

"Of the new funding, $4 million will support a dedicated boat and crew used by the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, with oversight from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to continue culling efforts over the next two years.

Mr Butler said more than 100,000 crown-of-thorns starfish have been eradicated from Queensland waters since the Federal Government began this initiative last year.

"Importantly, it means crown-of-thorns starfish on high value reefs are prevented from entering the next spawning season, and coral cover at high-value tourism sites, such as Lizard Island, has been maintained."

A further $1 million will be directed towards research to advance scientific knowledge of the crown-of-thorns starfish through the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University.

"While the current techniques use multiple-injections to control the spread of starfish, the method being funded through Caring for our Country involves a single injection method and has proved effective and non-lethal to other marine life under test situations," Mr Butler said.

Mr Butler said the protection of the Great Barrier Reef was imperative with research into crown-of-thorns starfish part of a broader effort that includes monitoring, research and development activities over the next five years.

"Due to climate change, the incidence of extreme weather events have had an incredibly detrimental effect on the Reef which we saw after the devastating Queensland summer floods of '08, '09 and '10, and Cyclone Yasi," Mr Butler said.

"Also, since 1979 we've seen devastating coral bleaching occur across the Reef nine times due to climate change and our warming sea waters, when there was no previous recorded occurrence.

"We must protect one of our most valuable environmental and tourism assets, with visitors to the Great Barrier Reef contributing $6.2 billion to the economy last year and 120,000 Australian jobs dependent on the health of the Reef.

"We must ensure we protect the Reef and the jobs it supports, which is why acting to halt climate change and further damage to the reef, by cutting carbon pollution, is imperative."

The Government has already provided $2.53 million towards research and eradication efforts in response to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks across the Great Barrier Reef after the significant summer floods of 2008, 2009 and 2011.