Fanworm treatment begins in Lyttelton

2 April 2009

Work started today on a programme to attempt to eliminate a marine pest fanworm from Lyttelton Port of Christchurch.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) last year detected the Mediterranean fanworm (Sabella spallanzanii) as part of its routine surveillance programme checking ports of entry to New Zealand for a suite of high-risk pests. The fanworm is an introduced species which has the potential to harm New Zealand’s coastal marine environment.

Over the next few weeks, MAFBNZ’s contractors on the elimination programme, Diving Services New Zealand and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) will have dive teams working in the port’s waters on the first treatment cycle.

Treatment is as simple as having divers search for individual fanworms and where they find them, manually removing them. This methodology has been demonstrated by research to be the best means of reducing, and ultimately eliminating the worm.

In order to rid Lyttelton of the pest, several treatment cycles will be required with divers systematically searching port structures, boats and the seabed and removing any specimens of the fanworm they find. The treatment cycles are planned to occur approximately every three months and may continue for two years. However, the programme will be reviewed in October this year to ensure that the treatment remains effective.

Boats moored in Lyttelton are at risk of being infected with the fanworm, and then capable of spreading it to other locations as they travel.

The manager of the fanworm programme, Peter Stratford, says if vessels have anything more than a light slime layer on their hull (e.g. a furry layer or actual barnacles, mussels, etc), they are at risk of picking up this pest (and other marine species) and spreading them to new, potentially high-value areas.

Areas particularly at risk are other parts of the wider Lyttelton Harbour, the nearby Marlborough and Nelson areas, Stewart Island and Fiordland - all with high value tourism, unique environmental assets or marine farming industries.

"We are urging all boat owners to keep up with a thorough hull maintenance programme", says Dr Stratford.
"All boaties (both recreational and commercial) have a role to play in protecting the New Zealand environment from marine pests and it’s as simple as keeping hulls free of fouling and maintaining a good coating of antifoul paint."



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Lesley Patston | Senior Communications Adviser | Tel 029 8940163

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