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Published: 2013-05-17 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has today confirmed that two barges that arrived in Coromandel Harbour infested with Mediterranean fanworm have now been cleared up.

The barges, which came from Auckland earlier this year, were heavily infested with the organism otherwise known as Sabella.

Authorities are keen to prevent the spread of fanworms from their known infestation sites in Auckland as they can damage mussel and oyster farms by crowding out and displacing shellfish. Fanworm is not yet known to have become established in Waikato waters.

At Coromandel, the infestation was discovered by divers sent down by the Coromandel Marine Farm Owners Association.

In a subsequent operation co-funded by the council and the Ministry for Primary Industries, divers went down and hand plucked the fanworms from the barges, using vacuums to suck up and filter debris.

Now that the clean-up has finished, the barge owner is to take his vessels back to Auckland as soon as possible.

The council’s biosecurity group manager John Simmons said some debris from the fanworms has got on to the sea floor during the hand plucking, so there will be ongoing monitoring to prevent any eggs from the fanworms establishing in the area. A delimiting survey of the harbour indicates fan worm is not already established.

Mr Simmons acknowledges the mussel farming industry for its assistance in dealing with the fanworm find.

“The ministry and the local mussel farmers have been really helpful. Co-operation like this between agencies and industry is one of the keys to dealing successfully with marine pests.

“The next step will be for us to work closely with the ministry and our council partners in Auckland and Northland on ways of better ensuring that fanworm is not spread about from known infestation areas.”