The NESP Integrated Pest Management COTS Control Research Program and its impact on COTS control on the GBR and the potential for successful control of the next outbreak

David Westcott

Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are a significant contributor to hard coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and consequently has been a driver of management investment on the GBR and in the GBR catchment. In this presentation I review the impacts of the NESP IPM COTS Control Program research on management and its outcomes. This impact has been far reaching, from the overall strategic approach through to structuring of decision making in day to day operations. Perhaps the greatest impact, however, has been in the on-water outcomes of COTS Control itself. The COTS Control Program has been transformed from a program that was largely ineffective even at individual sites, to one that is successfully reducing COTS densities to below critical thresholds at entire reef scales and which has achieved this at hundreds of reefs. These changes clearly demonstrate that the IPM approach to COTS control is an effective management approach and demands a re-consideration of its potential in terms of meeting future COTS control needs.