The Crown-of-thorns starfish is now claimed to be the single biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and funding of A$1.4m/Â£896,735 has been announced in an effort to control them.
The new money will be used by the Queensland tourism industry to employ divers to inject the pests with a chemical that's deadly to the starfish, killing them before their numbers get out of control.
An adult Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) can consume as much as six square metres of living coral reef per year, destroying the reef faster than it can regenerate.
"All the projections that we have say that we are looking down the barrel at one of the most significant outbreaks that we have seen," said Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke, who announced the funding.
He said last year's Queensland floods had created conditions in which the pest starfish had been able to thrive.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO), which said the program is critical not only to save the Great Barrier Reef but also Queensland's tourism industry.
AMPTO's Executive Officer Col McKenzie said: "There is no doubt the Crown-of-thorns is the single biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef — not climate change, not global warming, not mining and all those other pressures.
"The Crown-of-thorns has done far more damage."
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