Biosecurity bosses are battling to contain a pest that could prove catastrophic to Marlborough’s multimillion-dollar aquaculture industry.
Marlborough District Council’s biosecurity unit were called in following the discovery of hundreds of invasive pest species.
The worst case of Mediterranean fanworm ever found in Marlborough was uncovered on a boat moored at Waikawa Marina.
While the pest species was immediately destroyed, staff now face an arduous task as more were found on the seabed.
Mediterranean fanworm will readily settle on mussel grow-out lines and may reduce mussel growth by altering water flow around the lines and competing with mussels for suspended food.
Council biosecurity manager Jono Underwood says the find poses a serious threat to both the region’s salmon and mussel industries.
“It can colonise any structure in the water and has a massive filtering factor.
“Not only will it compete for space, it will filter food before it gets to the mussels,” he says.
The sea scourge has only ever been found in Marlborough in low number.
Only a dozen had previously been discovered, says Jono.
But hundreds were found after a boat, which had been in Auckland, was taken out of the water for cleaning.
“It was right up there in density,” he says.
Initially found in Auckland in 2008, the species has been trying to make its way to other parts of New Zealand, Jono says.
“It’s a bit of a nasty one and has high reproductive rates.
“Our whole goal is to try and make sure it’s not established here in Marlborough.
“We want to make sure that more and more people know about it.
“Vessel owners and operators need to play their part, know the rules, and keep their vessels clean, especially when moving around.”
“Everyone needs to be especially vigilant moving boats from northern hubs such as Auckland and Whangarei, where the fanworm is well-established and can easily establish itself on to a vessel.
“If you’re moving something south, a lift and clean immediately prior to departure is your best chance of avoiding an unwanted passenger.”
The owner was unaware of the fouling, which was probably smaller in size when the vessel came south six months ago.
Any findings must be reported by law. Worried boaties should contact Marlborough District Council or Ministry for Primary Industries.