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Published: 2013-05-02 00:00:00

The unwanted organism, otherwise known as Sabella, has been discovered recently on two barges brought down from Westhaven in Auckland. This is the first time the pest has been found in Coromandel Harbour.

The discovery was made by divers sent down by the Coromandel Marine Farm Owners Association.

The council’s biosecurity group manager John Simmons said the regional council had made the response a high priority due to the potential economic impact on marine farmers in the area.

“Fanworms can pose a serious risk to the productivity of mussel and oyster farms as they can crowd out and displace the shellfish,” he said.

Mr Simmons said divers had inspected the barges this week and confirmed the two barges were heavily infested by fanworm.

“The barges were more heavily infested than thought but the good news is a preliminary survey of moorings and rocky shoreline has not found any evidence of fanworm anywhere else.

“However, a more thorough survey of the key risk areas in the harbour will tell us if fanworm is present, and if so in what densities and stage of maturity.”

Mr Simmons said this information would help the council and MPI decide next steps in the response.

“We hope this means fanworm is not established in Coromandel Harbour as it can be notoriously difficult to eradicate.

“The first priority is to contain and treat the infestation on the worst infested barge while at the same time hand removing the mature fanworms from the other barge.”

Fanworm has previously been found at Lyttelton, Westhaven and Whangarei in New Zealand. It is thought to have arrived here from Australia.

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