Divers tackle Great Barrier Reef starfish threat

Last updated at 12:40
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WATCH: Divers look into crown-of-thorns starfish problem

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world's largest living structure.

It is home to thousands of plants and animals and it's so big it can be seen from space.

But the reef is under threat from a type of starfish that eats the coral which makes up the giant eco-system. It is known as the crown-of-thorns starfish.

Crown-of-thorns Starfish
Crown of thorns Starfish feeding on coralGetty Images
Crown-of-thorns starfish feeding on coral

The Australian Institute of Marine Science says the reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 30 years; and that has a lot to do with the crown-of-thorns starfish invasion.

A certain number of the starfish are essential to the future of the reef. They eat the faster growing corals so that slower corals have a chance to grow.

But if there too many of these starfish, they could destroy huge areas of coral, so the Australian Government has come up with a plan to control the population.

What's being done?

Divers are being sent to the reef to get rid of tens of thousands of starfish by injecting them with a chemical that causes them to break up after around 24 hours.

The government say it's not harmful to other marine plants and animals and that by getting rid of some starfish the coral should start to grow again.

There are also measures to try and control pollution from the land entering the sea, especially in the water around the reef.

That's because the crown-of-thorns starfish young feed on certain types of pollution in the water.

But critics of the culling programme say more should be done to stop the pollution getting into the water in the first place.