Scientists are using a Vegemite-like beef extract to kill the crown of thorns starfish, one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) says the crown of thorns starfish is responsible for 40 per cent of coral death on the reef since the 1980s.
James Cook University’s Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity in north Queensland has developed a culture that infects the starfish with its own bacteria.
Professor Morgan Pratchett says trials have been successful but that it is not a magic cure.
“We still have to infect every single starfish individually at the moment in order to kill them once an outbreak is established,” he said.
He says scientists are seeing the start of the fourth outbreak on the Great Barrier Reef right now.
“There’s just simply too many starfish that it’s going to be hard to go out there and really put a dent in the population,” he said.
“The main way we’ve come up with at the moment is actually injecting them with a protein-based media culture, which is just a mechanism by which you promote the natural bacteria within these starfish.”
He says it is killing the crown of thorns, but more tests are needed to ensure it does not damage the underlying coral.