Dr Peter Ridd Discussing The Health Of The Great Barrier Reef On Sky News Australia

Written by:
21 April 2023
Dr Peter Ridd Discussing The Health Of The Great Barrier Reef On Sky News Australia - Featured image

Dr Peter Ridd joins Outsiders on Sky News Australia to discuss the current health of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as University of Queensland research that has found the red decorator crab is a predator to crown-of-thorns starfish.


Rowan Dean:

Well, scientists at the University of Queensland may have found the unlikely key to protecting the Great Barrier Reef from one of its most dangerous coral predators, the crown-of-thorns starfish. Scientists hope the breakthrough will rebalance the predator ecosystem, and here to tell us more is the bloke who knows all about the Great Barrier Reef, geophysicist, adjunct fellow, of course, at the IPA, brilliant organization, the IPA. IPA.org.au; check it out. Peter Ridd. Peter, great to see you. Now, apparently, we’ve got a story about crown-of-thorns and crabs. You’re the reef man, and no one can tell us more about it than you. Fire away.

Peter Ridd:

Well, everybody knows that the crown-of-thorns starfish is supposedly destroying the Great Barrier Reef. They’ve been telling us for 60 years. They said in the ’60s that the reef would be gone by the ’70s, completely easing up, and that kept on going. We presently spend tens of millions of dollars a year trying to destroy crown-of-thorns starfish, but this new research has finally been done that’s demonstrating that there’s these little red decorated crabs that eat the tiny little larvae of the crown-of-thorns starfish. Now, this shouldn’t be a surprise, because crown-of-thorns are a natural Queensland animal, and, of course, they are predators. What is a surprise, it’s taken 60 years for these scientists to finally do the research on the predators of the starfish, and they really should have been doing this before they started blaming farmers for killing the Great Barrier with their nutrients, which supposedly causes the starfish plagues.

Rowan Dean:

James?

James Morrow:

That’s fascinating, but is there a problem or potential danger with these crabs that if you introduce them, that you could wind up having, like you’ve had so many other times with other attempts to use this sort of thing, I’m thinking about rabbits and all sorts of other things, then you went up with another problem down the road from these crabs?

Peter Ridd:

No, because these are Queensland crabs. These are living out there already. So, obviously, when a crown-of-thorns starfish releases literally millions of larvae, most of those are going to be eaten. In fact, all but probably one of them will be eaten by something or other, and this research has just found that this particular crab is particularly good at it. There will doubtless be dozens of other animals that are also eating these starfish. Remember, these are natural, and we know that they’ve been in plague proportions since the thousands of years, because we can actually look at the skeletons deep down in the cores of the reef.

Rowan Dean:

Rita?

Rita Panahi:

Fascinating stuff. Why is there this determination to see the Great Barrier Reef in peril, these domesday scenarios that we continuously, whether it’s blaming the farmers, whether it’s climate change? It seems like so many people think the Great Barrier Reef is about to die.

Peter Ridd:

Initially it was because when you see a whole lot of the reef that’s been eaten by the starfish, and they can eat a whole reef in about a year, that looks terrible, and people can be very emotional about it, and they had the best of interest in those days, but now, it’s become the way you get funding, unfortunately, and there’s too much emotion involved, so that’s a fundamental problem we’ve got.

Rowan Dean:

So, Peter, so here, as you say, we’ve finally done some research, 60 years on, to show that the crown-of-thorns starfish are not going to destroy the reef, that the crabs, there will be a natural balance. Who’d have thought, Peter, that nature actually looks after itself? What an amazing revelation. I mean, but thank goodness, as you say, people are doing this research, rather than endlessly scaring us silly. Do you think there’s a kind of, just moving overseas, Peter, away from the barrier reef, but in Germany, for instance, we’re suddenly seeing, as basically, the energy crisis forces up electricity bills and so on? A lot of people in Germany are now protesting against these green scare campaigns, against, for example, trying to ban nuclear energy. So we’ve seen in Germany, they’re starting to come out and say, “Hang on, slow down all of this net-zero stuff. Let’s go back, let’s have some nuclear energy.” So do we think we’ve reached peak green doomsday mongering, or is there another horror show just around the corner?

Peter Ridd:

I think we’re seeing the end of the whole doom science problem, actually. I mean, in Germany, it’s amazing. They decided to shut down their nukes after the Fukushima disaster, which was messy, but killed one person. Japan is actually going back, and they’re starting up all their nukes and building some new ones. In Germany, despite the fact the government wants to close down their last three remaining nukes, 65% of the population want to keep them, 65%, and only 25% or so want to shut them down. But you’re also seeing in America, there was a recent opinion poll that showed that 60% of Americans think that the climate change thing is a religion and is there to control us.

Rowan Dean:

They’re very smart.

Peter Ridd:

And that’s a staggering statistic, considering the relentless doom mongering, but people are seeing through this, and people are seeing through it with the Great Barrier Reef, eventually, as well.

Rowan Dean:

Rita?

Rita Panahi:

I wish I could believe you there, professor, but I just think we’re going to see more doomsdays, and we’ve been seeing it for decades, and every time it’s proved spectacularly wrong, they double down with the next one. Germany is interesting, though. What about what we’re doing? Do you see in our, I don’t know, next 10, 20 years, Australia embracing nuclear energy, or are we just so far out of the gate?

Peter Ridd: No, I think Australia is behind, because we haven’t seen the real energy shock the Germans, the British, or even the Japanese are feeling, because we’ve still got enough there, and really, nuclear, for us, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense because we’ve got so much coal and gas, but I think that you’re seeing peak lunacy in America, in Germany. It hasn’t percolated through to the power elites. The power elites still are going ahead, because it’s not affecting their high energy costs, but it is affecting the poor people, and the middle class people, and they are starting to turn. So I think you should have a lot more optimism, perhaps, Rita.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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