Acanthaster Planci and Management of the Great Barrier Reef
Since the first reported observation of large numbers of Acanthaster planci at Green Island (Barnes and Endean, 1964) the coral-eating crown of thorns starfish has been the most consistently controversial issue in the management of the Great Barrier Reef. The phenomenon is not understood. There are diametrically opposed expert interpretations of available information regarding the significance of the phenomenon and consequently of desirable or feasible management responses. One view holds that A. planci outbreaks are a natural phenomenon which do not threaten the continued existence of coral reef ecosystems; the other holds them to be unnatural and to threaten complete destruction of reefs. The first direct management option is to apply control measures, either to eradicate the starfish or to protect areas of coral from its predation. Limited control programs on the Great Barrier Reef and major programs in Micronesia (Wass, 1973), U.S. Trust Territories (Cheney, 1973) and Japan (Yamaguchi, 1986) had negligible success. The second management option is to enhance regeneration of coral cover; this can be achieved for small areas (Kojis and Quinn, 1981; Harriott and Harrison, 1984) but results so far do not suggest any feasible large scale application. Control of A. planci populations and the enhancement of recovery may be likened to treatment of the symptoms of an unknown condition. The long-term key to management lies in research to address the critical questions of cause and effect of the phenomenon.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 September 1987
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