Surveying a Reef for COTS

TWQ Hub research recently investigated the outcomes for a number of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) control divers, all of whom have graduated from the Queensland Government’s Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) initiative attached to the existing COTS Control Program. A recently published report describes some of the considerable additional social and economic benefits of the program, beyond saving coral cover, through COTS control.

The associated training program for the divers, managed by the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operations (AMPTO) and Gempearl Pty Ltd, started taking students in 2010 and has since produced several hundred graduates, all of whom are selected onto the program based on their under- or unemployed status, age, and perceived potential benefit from the program. Approximately 30 students graduate from the program each year, with a range of qualifications enabling them to work on marine vessels with various skills and duties.

The study utilised an online social survey to evaluate individuals’ perceived benefits arising from their participation in the program, and compared this to responses from a control sample of non‑graduates living and working within the GBR catchment regions. This was done to effectively separate the impact of participating in the program with other external influences across the study period.

The results showed a significant positive impact on both the life satisfaction and the employment prospects of the trainees, with graduates of the scheme found to be nearly 27 times more likely to be fully employed at the time of survey, compared to those outside of the program. A high proportion of graduates are also employed shortly after completing the program, with around 85% working with tourism operators or on commercial dive or control vessels.

COTS diver Malik Thaiday

Malik Thaiday, a 2017 graduate and Yirrganydji Traditional Owner, was recruited by Reef Magic -Dreamtime Dive to work as a dive master on their reef tourism vessels directly after his participation in the course. Soon after, he became a full time Yirrganydji Land & Sea Ranger for the Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation in Cairns. This year he’s working in the Ranger program’s Estuarine Crocodile Monitoring Program.

Some of the other positive responses from graduates include sentiments such as:  “100%, this program is the best opportunity I have ever been given” and “I am now in a career that I love and never would’ve gotten into it without the program”.

The Technical Report: Social and Economic Outcomes of the COTS Control Youth Training Program is now available on the Hub website.


Photos: Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators


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