Crown-of-thorn starfish control permit requirements

Important information for crown-of-thorns starfish control

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 2019 came into effect on 1 April 2019, providing more flexibility in crown-of-thorns starfish control.

The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), Acanthaster cf. solaris, is native to the Great Barrier Reef. The starfish are a voracious predator of live coral, have a very high reproductive potential, grow rapidly to reach maturity, and can reach ‘outbreak’ densities causing significant damage to coral reefs.  The frequency and severity of outbreaks are influenced by multiple factors, including major flooding events resulting in excess nutrients running off the land and a reduction in natural predators of the starfish.

If choosing to participate in crown-of-thorns starfish control, there are a number of very important sources of information you must familiarise yourself with:

Check zoning!

Zoning helps to manage and protect the values of the Marine Park that people enjoy. Each zone has different rules for the activities that are allowed, the activities that are prohibited, and the activities that require a permit. Zones may also place restrictions on how some activities are conducted. Check the zoning map for the area you intend on visiting.

Do I need a permit?

The following table outlines which zones require a permit for crown-of-thorns starfish control.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park ZonePermit requirements
General Use ZoneNo permit required - refer to Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines
Habitat Protection ZoneNo permit required - refer to Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines
Conservation Park ZoneNo permit required - refer to Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines
Buffer Zone Permit required
Scientific Research Zone Permit required
Marine National Park ZonePermit required
Preservation ZonePermit required

Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines

Please refer to the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines.

  • It is critically important to only use the control methods outlined in the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Guidelines (pages 2 – 7).  Other methods, such as cutting up starfish, can make the problem worse.
  • Health and safety: COTS have hundreds of long needle-like toxic spines covering their bodies and arms, presenting a health threat to people who interact with them. Individuals undertaking COTS control activities need to take suitable precautions to avoid being spiked and should be confident in the appropriate first aid treatment before doing the activity.

Report what you see and your achievements

Eye on the Reef is a reef monitoring and assessment program that enables anyone who visits the Great Barrier Reef to contribute to its long-term protection by collecting valuable information about reef health, marine animals and incidents.  If you participate in crown-of-thorns starfish control, please take photos of what you are seeing and load your information into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Sightings Network. Please include the number of COTS removed. We appreciate your information sharing as we can combine it with the knowledge of the program’s control efforts to offer the best management outcomes possible to protect the Reef.