Bruce Stobo of Kanimbla Charters donated his 25m catamaran for the week so that the team, which also included some park officials, could tackle the coral-killing starfish in Swain Reefs National Park off Queensland.

“It shows people who are organised can make a major difference to the population,” Stobo told the Gladstone Observer.

Twelve divers were under water at any one time, each carrying out three one-hour dives a day. They were armed with “dipping guns”, normally used for inoculating cattle, and had to inject each starfish with a solution of bile salts.

Where the populations were densest, as many as 15,000 starfish a day were reckoned to have been dispatched.

Maximum depth of the dives was 5m, where the maximum coral cover is found.

Stobo said he hoped that a federal funding package of Au$60m, recently announced for GBR protection and including $10m specifically to tackle COTS, would be enough to cover the southern end of the reef, as efforts had until now been concentrated between Townsville and Cairns.

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