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With the opening of the Nelson/Marlborough recreational scallop season on July 15, the Top of the South Marine Biosecurity Partnership is reminding scallopers to keep an eye out for unusual marine life while they’re diving.
The partnership is a grouping of local and central government, industry and iwi representatives working to help protect the Nelson/Marlborough waters from the introduction and spread of marine pest species.
Introduced and invasive marine pests can have harmful impacts on the marine environment, including shellfish stocks.
Top of the South Marine Biosecurity Partnership Chair Paul Sheldon says that divers looking for scallops are in an ideal position to spot sea life, including plants and marine animals such as sea squirts, tubeworms, starfish and crabs that appear out of the ordinary. Dredge fishers may also find things they don’t recognise while sorting their catch.
Mr Sheldon asks fishers to look out for anything they don’t recognise but to be particularly vigilant for two species that have already been found in New Zealand and that could impact the local environment.
Styela clava (also known as the clubbed tunicate sea squirt) has been found, so far in very limited numbers, in Port Nelson. This sea squirt is widespread in the Auckland area and is in a number of other New Zealand locations. As well as competing with native species for food and space, Styela clava is a nuisance to the marine farming industry as it infests mussel lines.
The Mediterranean fanworm Sabella spallanzanii is a tubeworm that is established in Auckland and Lyttelton Port. Again, it’s an overseas invader that can overcrowd native species.
If you’re out scalloping and find anything suspicious, note its location, take a sample if you can and contact MAF’s Pest and Disease Hotline – 0800 80 99 66.
Samples can be plastic bagged with a little seawater and kept in the fridge until you get further instructions.
The earlier potential pests are reported, the greater chance there is of eliminating or managing them, should they turn out to be of concern.
For full information about marine pest species and how you can help, visit: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/biosec/camp-acts/marine