Mediterranean fanworm widespread in Lyttelton Port

3 July 2008

A thorough search of the Lyttelton Port and surrounding marine environment for the pest marine species the Mediterranean fanworm has revealed the organism is widespread in the inner harbour.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) carried out the survey following earlier findings of the fanworm through its routine marine pest surveillance programme.

Senior Marine Advisor Dr Peter Stratford says the detection of the pest throughout the inner port area is disappointing as it rules out the possibility of eradicating the organism.

"Our experience and international advice tells us eradicating a marine pest that is as widely spread as this is simply not feasible. This situation presents a case of nature dictating the available options," Peter Stratford says.

"In the specific Lyttelton environment, there are many, many piles and pontoons, some cross braced, and each capable of supporting the fanworm. All this adds up to an enormous potential habitat for this organism. As well, there is extremely poor underwater visibility in the area, making the chances of confirming eradication success with a high degree of confidence unlikely."

An inspection of 15 locations in the Magazine Bay Marina outside the inner port failed to detect the pest.

The next step for MAFBNZ is discussing the findings in person with concerned individuals and organisations, and exploring the merits of management options that may be available. It is hoped a meeting will be held in Lyttelton early next week.

The Mediterranean fanworm is an unwanted organism due to its potential to impact on the marine environment.

MAFBNZ advises the owners of boats moored in Lyttelton to ensure the hulls of their vessels are clean of fouling and well coated with antifouling paint before they relocate to other areas of New Zealand.

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