Researchers crave to control coral killer

Researchers will gather in Cairns next week to share ideas on how best to control the killer crown-of-thorns starfish which has seriously affected the Great Barrier Reef.

The four day Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium starting on Monday will feature presentations by researchers from a number of institutions including the CSIRO, the University of Queensland, James Cook University and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The crown-of-thorns starfish are armed with venomous spines, can grow to the size of a dinner plate and feed on hard corals, the building blocks of coral reefs.

Outbreaks of the starfish have been responsible for 42 per cent of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef between 1985 and 2012 and they remain one of the key threats to coral, according to the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC).

The centre's managing director Sheriden Morris says advances in control strategies are promising.

"In the past, research on crown-of-thorns starfish has been patchy and not well co-ordinated," Ms Morris said.

"Since 2015, we have been steadily implementing an integrated pest management ... and bringing what's been learned from successful pest control strategies on land into the marine realm for the first time.

"Each COTS can consume up to six square metres of coral per year and diver teams operating under the control program have already removed hundreds of thousands of COTS from key areas of the Great Barrier Reef."