THE Great Barrier Reef may be a gem in Australia's crown and one of the world's natural wonders.
But in the light of a discovery by marine scientists that coral cover in the reef has halved in 27 years as a result of the combined effects of coral bleaching, damage caused by storms and crown-of-thorns starfish, a local man has decided to take up arms against the thorn in the crown.
Ron Wright of Bilinga is trying to raise awareness on this serious issue that threatens top destroy the reef.
He has contacted TV and ministers with a plan of attack that includes culling the destructive crown of thorns starfish.
"Like ticks on a cow, we need to pick them off the reef," he said.
"Getting the public involved by giving them $1 a head would not only address the problem, but create employment and environmental awareness."
The justice of the peace has spent the last 20 years travelling the world.
"I have just come back from visiting The Grand Canyon," he said.
"It's one of the wonders of the world, yet our wonder is half dead."
"Nothing is being done.
Mr Wright said he had contacted the TV program 60 Minutes to no avail.
"I blame politicians for not taking action sooner and not taking action now," he said.
"They blame fertilisers entering the sea in run-off from farms.
"While that may promote their growth, what they don't say is that the crown of thorns was already there before the fertilisers."
Queensland environment minister Andrew Powell said recently that the Newman government was committed to taking on the crown of thorns starfish, admitting it was one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Powell's comments followed an investigation into the future of the reef by scientists at Townsville's Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The investigation revealed half of the World Heritage-listed reef's coral had been wiped out in the last 27 years, with tropical cyclones accounting for 24 per cent of the damage and crown of thorn starfish responsible for 21 per cent of the damage.
Dr Hugh Sweatman from the institute said the crown of thorns starfish accounted for 42% of the damage to the reef, with cyclones being 48% and the remaining 10% due to bleaching.
He said divers had been employed through a combined Qld and federal government initiative to poison the starfish.
"These are mainly in tourism sites," he said.
"It's a very laborious task."
Dr Sweatman said the reef had the capacity to recover, but it "needed a break."
"The female crown of thorns produces around 50 million eggs a year," he said.
He said the concept of putting a bounty on the species as suggested by Mr Wright posed problems.
"Firstly, they are poisonous and can induce anaphylactic shock which can result in death," he said.
Dr Sweatman said if the public was let loose on the reef, their enthusiasm may do more harm than good.
Where money is involved, the process could be abused.
Dr Sweatman said the culling process could be turned into farming.
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