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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1690

Debate resumed from 28 March, on motion by Senator Missen:

That the Senate, recognising the unquestioned extent of Commonwealth responsibility for the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef exercised through the operations of the Marine Park Authority and for the effective countering of any established threat to the integrity of the reef area-

(a) expresses concern about reports which indicate that large numbers of crown-of-thorns starfish have been found in many of the major reefs within the Great Barrier Reef, that the infestations are becoming widespread and posing a serious threat to the organisation and functional relationships within some reef communities;

(b) notes recent reports that soil erosion arising from the building of a road in the Daintree rainforest may be creating a threat to rare coral reefs just off the Daintree coast;

(c) observes that, despite former reports of committees of inquiry into the crown-of-thorns starfish since 1969-70, the present Advisory Committee has reported in January 1985 that 'present evidence is inadequate for scientists to agree on the nature and significance of the phenomenon of aggregations of large numbers of crown-of-thorns starfish and thus on the extent of any consequent risk' and that the current level of research activity is unlikely to lead to a short-term resolution of the questions raised;

(d) expresses its deep concern to the Commonwealth Government and the Marine Park Authority for:

(i) the apparent lack of urgency in commissioning urgent research which would enable scientists to ascertain the nature and significance of the crown-of-thorns starfish infestations and the extent of any consequent risk that the reef or some substantial part of it is being destroyed,

(ii) the failure to review techniques for monitoring crown-of-thorns starfish and coral conditions, and developing more efficient techniques such as biological control by predators or other action to control the infestations,

(iii) the inadequacy of regulations preventing tourist spearfishermen and professional fishermen from removing large numbers of giant triton, groper and other natural predators of the starfish from the reef; and, accordingly

(e) refers to the Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment and the Standing Committee on National Resources the question of whether an urgent investigation should be undertaken into this matter, and if so by which committee, to ascertain whether the present proposals of the Advisory Committee and the Marine Park Authority are adequate to meet the situation, or otherwise to make specific recommendations relating to a co-ordinated program of crown-of-thorns starfish research, control and eradication within the Great Barrier Reef.