Australia has announced a cull of coral-eating starfish that have been destroying the Great Barrier Reef, as part of a £35 million rescue package for the 1,500-mile stretch of delicate coast.
The reef, off the north-east coast of the state of Queensland, has faced heavy coral damage in recent years from bleaching and warmer water temperatures as well as coastal development, agricultural and industrial pollution, storms and the starfish.
Surveys by the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that coral cover declined by about 50 per cent between 1985 and 2012, and that crown-of-thorns starfish were responsible for almost half of this decline.
The plan includes £21 million to prevent pollution from entering the reef, particularly from surrounding farms, as well as £6 million for an “all-out assault on coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish” and £3.5 million for research into improving the resilience of coral.
The coral-eating starfish are naturally occurring but have proliferated due to pollution and agricultural run-off at the struggling reef.
2. CHINA IS LISTENING IN NEAR GUAM
China has planted powerful listening devices in two strategic seabeds deep in the waters near Guam, America’s biggest military base in the Western Pacific.
The cutting-edge acoustic sensors – some of which have a listening range of more than 1,000km – are being used for scientific research such as studying earthquakes, typhoons and whales, according to the Chinese government.
But security experts say the sensors can also track the movement of submarines in the South China Sea and intercept underwater signals between the submarines and their command base.
One of the acoustic sensors is located in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench – the deepest place on Earth at 10,916 metres beneath sea level – and another is near Yap, an island in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The Challenger Deep and Yap are respectively about 300km and 500km southwest of Guam, between Guam and Palau.
Guam is home to the United States’ biggest military base in the Western Pacific and it is also an important resupply and maintenance centre for the submarines of other US naval forces in the Pacific region. Palau is one of the main entry points to the South China Sea for US naval vessels.