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Published: 2015-06-09 00:00:00

Joint media release from Waikato Regional Council and Ministry for Primary Industries
Boaties and marine farmers around the Coromandel Peninsula are being urged to take extra care after recent new finds of the marine pest fan worm (Sabella) in Coromandel Harbour.

This warning - which includes all vessels sailing, anchoring and mooring in the area, as well as marine farms – comes as Waikato Regional Council is ramping up funding to tackle marine pests.

The council and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have been working together to eliminate the fan worm since it was first discovered in the harbour in 2013. This first outbreak involved two infested barges from Auckland and was managed successfully in a joint operation. Ongoing monitoring was put in place.

“The new finds made through this monitoring highlight how important it is for boaties and marine farmers to be extremely vigilant and keep their equipment clean to avoid spreading this pest. It can grow prolifically, forming dense colonies, crowding out other marine life in harbours and potentially impacting aquaculture in the area,” said Waikato Regional Council pest animals team leader Brett Bailey.

Mr Bailey said one of the best ways to stop the spread of fan worm was for boaties to have their moored boat hulls cleaned and have fresh anti-fouling paint applied regularly.

“These actions will help stop fan worm getting a foothold in our region and protect our marine farms.”

Sabella was first reported in New Zealand in 2008 in Lyttelton, followed by another find in Auckland in 2009. The species is well-established in Auckland, and there is regular vessel movement between there and the Coromandel.

Monitoring for fan worm undertaken since the 2013 operation in Coromandel Harbour has involved divers inspecting moorings, the seafloor, vessels, mussel farms and structures . Generally, only small, localised colonies of fan worms have been found and these have been removed immediately.

However, this autumn, monitoring has picked up increased signs of the pest. Six heavily fouled vessels in the harbour had Sabella on their hulls, while four fan worms were found at Hannafords Jetty. All were immediately removed. More recently, it was reported there may be Sabella within a marine farm in the harbour. Closer checks are to be carried out.

“We ask that boaties and marine farmers work with us to help identify where any further fan worms are.”

More information on fan worm, including photos, can be found at: www.biosecurity.govt.nz/pests/mediterranean-fanworm

People who think they have seen this pest, or who spot any other unusual looking marine animal, are asked to report it to MPI’s pest and diseases hotline 0800 809966 or call the council on 0800 800 401.

Meanwhile, the council’s recently approved Long Term Plan introduces $235,000 in funding next financial year to increase monitoring and management of marine pests in Coromandel Harbour and the wider Firth of Thames, with $185,000 a year thereafter.

“This illustrates the council’s commitment to keeping on top of Sabella and other marine pest species,” said Mr Bailey.