Step-change wanted: Biologically based technologies for innovative crown-of-thorns starfish control

Lone Høj

Future integrated pest management strategies for COTS are likely to incorporate one or more biologically based technologies such as semiochemicals, predator control, traditional biological control, and genetic biocontrol. As part of the NESP TWQ Hub project on implementation of the COTS research strategy, we outlined the history and current use of these approaches in pest control worldwide, with special reference to their use in aquatic systems. We considered their potential role for COTS control on the GBR, analysing factors such as the scale of potential use, the need for repeated applications, reversibility, environmental risk, perception and regulatory risks, financial risk and critical knowledge gaps. On this basis, we made recommendations on their potential role in an integrated pest management strategy for COTS and estimated a minimum lead time until each could be application ready. Our analysis currently serves as a foundation for activities in the COTS Control Innovation Program (CCIP), which was established by the GBRF’s Reef Trust Partnership to create a step-change and accelerate the development of innovative control and surveillance methods for COTS while continuing to improve current methods. The program is currently in its Design Phase, scoping and assessing research opportunities to produce a prioritised investment portfolio.