The crown-of-thorns starfish is soaring in numbers in the Great Barrier Reef. The starfish is known for being a coral-eating species that might endanger the largest coral reef system in the world.
According to the WWF-Australia, the number of crown-of-thorns starfish could rise up to 60 million by 2020. Dr. Glen Holmes, co-author of "The Starfish That Eat The Reef", pointed out that this could mean that the crown-of-thorns starfish's soaring population might be as horrible as a locust plague.
The starfish already claimed 60,000 hectares of live coral over the past 30 years. There is nothing that can be done to stop the current outbreak. Still, the scientific community is appealing for tougher measures to prevent future instances of crown-of-thorns uncontrolled population explosion.
The main reason for the rise of the starfish's population is actually because of human enterprise. Harmful chemicals flowing off agricultural areas into the reef waters are the ones fueling the outbreaks. These chemical trigger algal blooms that in turn give the starfish food.
"If we cut catchment pollution we can starve the baby crown-of-thorns starfish and prevent the next outbreak before it happens," Dr. Holmes said. "This will give the reef a chance to rebuild its coral cover and grow again."
Australia's government, both state and national, had failed in achieving in the modest targets, and more money is needed to reduce the outbreak. If the outbreak follows the patterns of the plagues that happened over the years, the coral cover is feared to be reduced below 10 percent.
The crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, is a large starfish (also called a sea star). It preys upon hard or stony coral polyps. This kind of starfish is distributed in the Indo-Pacific but most common in Australia. It can also be found in the Read Sea and east Africa coast and even west coast of Central America.