Div­ing deep to erad­i­cate fan­worm

The Northland Age - - Local News -

A four-strong dive team has em­barked on $100,000 pro­gramme to rid Opua ¯ of Mediter­ranean fan­worm.

The erad­i­ca­tion ef­fort is led by North­land Re­gional Coun­cil, with sup­port from Biose­cu­rity New Zealand, part of the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries.

The dive is the first part of a planned staged at­tempt.

Re­gional coun­cil biose­cu­rity man­ager Don McKen­zie said con­trac­tors dis­cov­ered a sin­gle spec­i­men of the marine pest while work­ing in the O¯ pua area in early July.

The Mediter­ranean fan­worm Sabella spal­lan­zanii is un­wanted be­cause it can quickly form dense colonies, forc­ing out na­tive species and in­ter­fer­ing with their abil­ity to feed and breed. It had been found grow­ing on scal­lops in Whanga¯rei Har­bour and has the po­ten­tial to spread onto other shell­fish.

Mr McKen­zie said divers were im­me­di­ately called in to in­ves­ti­gate the July Bay of Is­lands find, dis­cov­er­ing — and re­mov­ing — more than 100 fan­worm from the O¯ pua Ma­rina and the sur­round­ing area over sev­eral weeks.

The divers were then stood down as biose­cu­rity ex­perts an­a­lysed the find­ings and con­sid­ered the best man­age­ment ap­proach. The fan­worm is thought to have been in the area for sev­eral years, prob­a­bly hitch­hik­ing on a vis­it­ing ves­sel.

The re­gional coun­cil then com­mit­ted $60,000 to­ward the month-long, weather-de­pen­dent ef­fort to try to erad­i­cate the pest. Once fin­ished, re­sults from the lat­est erad­i­ca­tion at­tempt will be re­viewed again be­fore fur­ther work is con­sid­ered.

The fund­ing from the coun­cil paid for the Com­mer­cial Dive Spe­cial­ists team’s time and Biose­cu­rity New Zealand was also con­tribut­ing $40,000 to the cur­rent re­moval at­tempt.

“Es­sen­tially, this is a ‘step­wise’ erad­i­ca­tion ap­proach, with a re­view at the end of each round of diver search and de­stroy ef­fort, to con­sider what progress has been made and whether con­tin­ued work is jus­ti­fi­able both eco­nom­i­cally and prac­ti­cally,” Mr McKen­zie said.

No one in­volved was un­der any il­lu­sion as to the scale of the task they face, he said.

“How­ever, our coun­cil­lors and Biose­cu­rity New Zealand felt that given the im­por­tance of the Bay of Is­lands across mul­ti­ple fronts — in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally, eco­nom­i­cally and cul­tur­ally — they could not pass up what may be our only real op­por­tu­nity to at­tempt to rid the area of fan­worm.”

The coun­cil re­it­er­ated its ear­lier mes­sages to boat­ies that it’s vi­tal to en­sure their ves­sel and any as­so­ci­ated equip­ment — moor­ings and their rope/ chain and fish­ing nets — is clean and free from foul­ing which may con­tain marine pests.

Mr McKen­zie urges peo­ple en­coun­ter­ing marine pests to no­tify the re­gional coun­cil as soon as pos­si­ble by phon­ing (0800) 002-004.

Pai­hia-based com­mer­cial diver Lars Foelsche is among a team of divers at­tempt­ing to rid Opua of Mediter­ranean fan­worm.

Mediter­ranean fan­worm is un­wanted be­cause it can quickly form dense colonies, forc­ing out na­tive species and im­pact­ing shell­fish.

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