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First sea squirt inspections clear

4 November 2005

First sea squirt inspections clear

Biosecurity New Zealand’s national search of high risk areas for the presence of the invasive sea squirt, the clubbed tunicate, has so far found no sign of the organism.

The national surveillance programme began this week with divers examining Whangarei’s Marsden Point Port and refinery berth, and Akaroa Harbour on Banks Peninsula.

Senior Marine Advisor Brendan Gould says the teams working at both those locations have not detected any trace of the clubbed tunicate.

“While it is positive that the sea squirt was not found in the areas that were searched, it has to be understood that the marine environment is vast and we can only target particular areas,” Mr Gould says. “We are, however, searching the areas it’s most likely to be in if it’s there.”

The presence of the pest sea squirt has been confirmed in various locations throughout Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and in Lyttelton Port.

“We know from our research that the organism has been present in New Zealand for some years and it may well have spread to areas outside the Hauraki Gulf and Lyttelton.”

Biosecurity New Zealand has extended surveillance for the pest to areas considered high-risk - because they are close to known infestations, they have a high volume of vessel movements from locations where the sea squirt has been found, or they are close to high value areas such as aquaculture or biodiversity-rich sites.

“We need to know where the organism is (and isn’t) before we can plan any effective course of action,” Mr Gould says.

Along with the surveillance programme, Biosecurity New Zealand is asking members of the public, especially marine users, to keep an eye out for the clubbed tunicate sea squirt and report any suspected finds to its free 0800 number (0800 80 99 66).

Awareness material about the sea squirt is distributed widely. Mr Gould says there are two important things that those using the country’s marine areas can do.

“Firstly, we’d like to hear from members of the public who see what they suspect to be this sea squirt. Boaties, divers and people walking around our coastline and ports are our eyes out there and we hope they’ll report finds.

“And the other vital contribution the public can make is to help prevent the spread of the organism. Keeping boat hulls clean and free of fouling is the key to this.”

Mr Gould urges people to check their hull before setting sail and where it is heavily fouled, to clean it where it is. It is known that regular cleaning and the use of anti-fouling treatment will greatly help contain the spread of the sea squirt.

The surveillance programme continues with ongoing work in the Whangarei area. And surveillance will begin in Greymouth next Wednesday 9 November.

Other sites scheduled for examination are as follows:

Bay of Islands (Opua)
Mangawhai Harbour
Whitianga Marina
Tauranga Port and Marina
Whakatane Port
Napier Port
New Plymouth
Wellington Port
Nelson Port
Picton, Havelock and Waikawa Marinas
Tarakohe (Golden Bay)
Port Otago and Port Chalmers

No dates are set for these inspections as yet. Advisories will be sent out as they come to hand.


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