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4 November 2005
Biosecurity New Zealand's national search of high risk areas for the presence
of the invasive sea squirt, the clubbed tunicate, has so far found no sign of
The national surveillance programme began this week with divers examining
Whangarei's Marsden Point Port and refinery berth, and Akaroa Harbour on Banks
Senior Marine Adviser Brendan Gould says the teams working at both those
locations have not detected any trace of the clubbed tunicate.
"While it is positive that the sea squirt was not found in the areas that
were searched, it has to be understood that the marine environment is vast and
we can only target particular areas," Mr Gould says. "We are, however, searching
the areas it's most likely to be in if it's there."
The presence of the pest sea squirt has been confirmed in various locations
throughout Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and in Lyttelton Port.
"We know from our research that the organism has been present in New Zealand
for some years and it may well have spread to areas outside the Hauraki Gulf and
Biosecurity New Zealand has extended surveillance for the pest to areas
considered high-risk - because they are close to known infestations, they have a
high volume of vessel movements from locations where the sea squirt has been
found, or they are close to high value areas such as aquaculture or
"We need to know where the organism is (and isn't) before we can plan any
effective course of action," Mr Gould says.
Along with the surveillance programme, Biosecurity New Zealand is asking
members of the public, especially marine users, to keep an eye out for the
clubbed tunicate sea squirt and report any suspected finds to its free 0800
number (0800 80 99 66).
Awareness material about the sea squirt is distributed widely. Mr Gould says
there are two important things that those using the country's marine areas can
"Firstly, we'd like to hear from members of the public who see what they
suspect to be this sea squirt. Boaties, divers and people walking around our
coastline and ports are our eyes out there and we hope they'll report finds.
"And the other vital contribution the public can make is to help prevent the
spread of the organism. Keeping boat hulls clean and free of fouling is the key
Mr Gould urges people to check their hull before setting sail and where it is
heavily fouled, to clean it where it is. It is known that regular cleaning and
the use of anti-fouling treatment will greatly help contain the spread of the
The surveillance programme continues with ongoing work in the Whangarei area.
And surveillance will begin in Greymouth next Wednesday 9 November.
Other sites scheduled for examination are as follows:
No dates are set for these inspections as yet. Advisories will be sent out as
they come to hand.
For further information, and to make arrangements to photograph or tape the
Lesley Patston, Senior Communications Adviser, Ph. 027 205-1418
Material on the clubbed tunicate is also available on the Biosecurity New