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Invasive Seaweed On Sunken Boat

Officials are meeting this evening to decide how best to handle another underwater threat to the Chatham Islands following the sinking of the fishing boat Seafresh 1, three kilometres offshore, the Minister for Biosecurity, Marian Hobbs.

The sunken vessel is known to have had the invasive Asian seaweed, Undaria, on its hull. This weed is not thought to be present in the Chathams.

The Ministry of Fisheries is responsible for marine biosecurity and officials will be meeting with colleagues from the Maritime Safety Authority and the Department of Conservation to devise a strategy to address the threat posed by any Undaria that may be on the Seafresh 1. The MSA is also working to prevent damage to the ecosystem from the up-to-100 tonnes of oil in the sunken vessel's fuel tanks

Marian Hobbs said Undaria is a prolific weed that can outcompete local species and which threatens our biodiversity.

"Expert advice is that few of our native seaweeds can compete with Undaria's invasive characteristics," she said.

"The object of tonight's meeting will be to develop a strategy to stop the spread of any seaweed from the sunken vessel to the Chathams' shore."

Undaria is thought to have been introduced to New Zealand in ballast water discharged by foreign ships in the late eighties. It was discovered in Wellington Harbour in 1987 and spread to the Marlborough Sounds and east coast harbours. In 1997 it was found in Big Glory Bay, Stewart Island.

To address wider management issues, the Ministry of Fisheries is well on the way with a proposal for a National Pest Management Strategy for Undaria.

ends



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