Help stop the spread of marine pests this summer

Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Help stop the spread of marine pests this summer

More than two-thirds of water users are unaware of the threat posed by marine pests, according to a recent survey by Parks Victoria. In response, the government agency is urging people to remember to Check, Clean and Dry before hitting the water.

A survey of recreational marine users found 70% knew little or nothing about marine pests and that they can be spread by boats large and small, other watercraft and any equipment used in marine areas, such as wetsuits, diving gear and toys. The findings are particularly worrying given that one in three watercraft users travel to new locations on each trip, potentially spreading the pests to more areas.

Marine pests, such as the northern Pacific seastar and Japanese kelp known as wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), are highly invasive animals and plants that cause significant damage to marine ecosystems through predation or competition with native species. They reproduce quickly and once established are virtually impossible to eradicate, such as has occurred in some parts of Port Phillip Bay.

Japanese wakame and diver at Pope’s Eye, Port Phillip Bay.

The risk of marine pests spreading can be dramatically reduced with a three-step process:

  1. Check your vessel and marine equipment for marine pests frequently and remove if found.
  2. Clean with fresh water to thoroughly wash down boats, other watercraft, fishing gear, wetsuits, water toys and other marine equipment after use.
  3. Dry boats and marine equipment thoroughly before moving to other areas, especially if leaving Port Phillip Bay.

Around-the-world sailor Jessica Watson and fishing expert Paul Worsteling have joined the call to Check, Clean and Dry, by appearing in an online video campaign along with Parks Victoria’s Chief Conservation Scientist, Dr Mark Norman.

“Victoria’s marine waters have incredible biodiversity, supporting more than 12,000 species of plants and animals, 90% of which are found nowhere else in the world,” Dr Norman said. “It’s vital we protect these natural assets.”

Worsteling added, “We all know how important it is to clean your boat from a maintenance perspective, but it’s also really important to clean it properly to avoid the transportation of marine pests, even if you’re moving to a different location on the same day.

“Port Phillip Bay is actually a nursery and a nesting place for a lot of fish that have been here for their entire history. It’s sad to see that things that have been here forever are now facing these enemies.”

Watson concluded, “We have the opportunity to help stop the spread of marine pests. It’s so important because once established, they can be incredibly difficult to eradicate.

“Boats that stay in the water all year round are particularly vulnerable, which is why it’s really important to wash all equipment with fresh water — that’s everything from anchor chains to kayaks, fenders, mooring lines and fishing gear.”

More information about marine pests, and how their spread can be prevented, is available on Parks Victoria’s website. People are encouraged to call 136 186 to report any sightings of marine pests.

Top image caption: Northern Pacific seastar and diver.

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