Two small patches of Mediterranean fanworms have been located in Coromandel Harbour, prompting a fresh warning from authorities for boaties to be vigilant against accidentally bringing marine pests into the Waikato region.
The new finds of this pest follow the discovery of the fanworm on the bottom of two barges in the harbour last March. The barges had come from Auckland’s Waitemata harbour, where fanworms are already well-established. The fanworms found then were removed by Waikato Regional Council and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in a joint biosecurity response.
The latest discovery was made in a follow-up operation just before Christmas to check whether any fanworms remained.
“Our pre-Christmas search found two small infestation sites at Te Kouma – one was on a mooring and the other on the bottom of a boat,” said the council’s animal pest team leader Dave Hodges.
“It’s unclear whether these latest finds are related to the earlier discovery in March last year.”
Mr Hodges said the council and MPI were concerned about the spread of fanworms in the harbour and elsewhere in the region, as fanworms can affect mussel farming operations and take over natural environments.
“We are now going to do follow-up checks in more locations to see whether this is a relatively isolated problem or whether fanworms have become more established. We will be meeting with representatives of the local marine farming community to enlist their help in this process.”
Mr Hodges said the council was disappointed to find the pest, but it wasn’t totally unexpected due to the invasive character of fanworms.
“Managing marine pests such as fanworms is technically challenging. We need to work with the local community and stakeholders to address both the current problem and the prevention of more fanworm infestations in the future.”
Boaties, particularly those coming to the Waikato from Auckland and Northland where fanworms are established, could help prevent the spread of the pest by regularly cleaning and antifouling their hulls, Mr Hodges said.
“This pest has potentially serious environmental and economic consequences.
“We need boaties to play their role in helping prevent the spread of fanworms and other marine pests so that our precious marine environment and our economy are protected.”