Divers from the Royal Australian Navy have been brought in to help clear up controversial theories that a coral-eating starfish is threatening to destroy Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
MV Divers in power boat leaving H.M.A.S. Tarakan
Divers in power boat
Boat heads towards Reef
MV Underwater shot of boat and ropes trailing
MV Diver towed on rope
Underwater shot boat TILT DOWN Coral Reef
MV Crown of Thorns on Coral and Navy diver prises it from Reef
MV Diver swims over Reef
MV Tracking shot of Reef
MV Crown of Thorns feeding on Coral
Initials AE/16.36 AE/16.47
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Divers from the Royal Australian Navy have been brought in to help clear up controversial theories that a coral-eating starfish is threatening to destroy Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Fifteen divers have been sent to the reef to report on the invasion of the starfish, known as the Crown of Thorns. It's a long-tentacled marine animal which exudes a chemical slime as it moves along eating the coral organisms.
Conservationists became worried when the Crown of Thorns suddenly appeared in plague proportions about four years ago. They fear the starfish might destroy the Barrier Reef, which is one of Australia's major tourist attractions. It's the longest coral reef in the world, stretching some 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometres) along the coast of Queens-land, the north eastern Australian state.
Marine scientists are divided on the extent of the danger to the reef, so the Navy divers have been sent in to help settle the argument. Their task is to conduct a census of the starfish population on three-hundred square miles of the reef. The census will be repeated over the same area next year, to determine if the numbers of Crown of Thorns are increasing, and how much coral they are killing. If the surveys show the Reef is threatened, it will be up to marine scientists to find a way of dealing with the Crown of Thorns invasion.