6 June 2012
In an update to an earlier report, divers have now removed 129 Northern Pacific Seastars from the Tidal River Estuary at Wilson Promontory (Vic). Parks Victoria Incident Controller Matt Hoskins said extensive searches in nearby estuaries, beaches, inlets, and in offshore areas have found no sign of the spread of Northern Pacific Seastars.
“The precautionary limitations on swimming and fishing have been lifted, however the use of all water vessels including kayaks and canoes in Tidal River remains strictly prohibited until further notice,” said Mr Hoskins. “Operations will focus on Tidal River for the foreseeable future. We’re treating this infestation as seriously as we would a fire or flood emergency. It is very important for people who love the Prom and its surrounding waterways.”
Mr Hoskins said Northern Pacific Seastar females can produce from 10-25 million eggs per year.
“From July-October larvae remain in the water column for up to 120 days providing a huge opportunity for spread to new areas through the water movements along the coast,” said Mr Hoskins. “It is a voracious predator feeding on a wide range of native animals and can have a major effect on the native, and commercially important, shellfish populations that form part of the marine food chain. They directly compete with many fish, including snapper, which use native shellfish as a source of food.”
Mr Hoskins said the team would work through management options while manual removal of the Northern Pacific Seastars continued with professional diving teams.
“We’re washing and drying all equipment as we enter the river,” said Mr Hoskins. “This is vital in containing the spread. We would encourage all users of tidal river to take this precautionary approach.”
• Marine pests including the Northern Pacific Seastar are easily spread from one part of the coast to another by people.
• Boats, kayaks and canoes, wetsuits, fishing gear, and other equipment that remain wet can spread fertilised eggs, larvae, or small animals or plants, to new locations.
• All equipment used in marine areas should be washed in freshwater after use then thoroughly dried to reduce the risk of spreading marine pests.
• This is particularly important for people moving any equipment used in areas like Port Phillip Bay to other areas such as the Prom.
Mr Hoskins said the response and awareness of the severity of the Northern Pacific Seastar infestation has been overwhelming.
“We thank everyone for their support on this important issue.” Sightings of suspected Northern Pacific Seastars outside of Wilsons Promontory National Park or Port Phillip Bay can be reported to the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) customer service centre on 136 186.
DSE recommends taking a photo of the suspected seastar as well as the specific location where it was observed would assist in any investigation.