Scientists have found a Crown-of-Thorns outbreak on the Ningaloo Reef system in Western Australia similar to that found on the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast.
CSIRO and marine biologists from The University of Western Australia have been doing a health check of the World Heritage-listed site as part of the Pilbara Marine Conservation Partnership.
On a recent trip to the region, the research team found an outbreak of the spiky sea stars which voraciously feed on coral.
The outbreak comes at a particularly bad time for the Pilbara which has suffered a series of severe bleaching events which have reduced the amount of live coral to an average of just over 5%.
Reefs could probably cope with one of these things at a time, but when two impacts occur, the combination of stressors can lead to long term declines in coral cover and reef health.
The CSIRO says the team observed densities of up to 220 per hectare around Barrow Island and the Montebello Islands.
Up to 1,000 per hectare have been recorded on the Great Barrier Reef.
Although numbers at the Pilbara are much lower, they are easily high enough to consume coral faster than it can grow.
Watch the science team find the Crown-of-Thorns starfish:
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