BIOSECURITY SCARE TURNS OUT TO BE FALSE ALARM
9 July 2001
A scare over a possible biosecurity threat that could have had serious repercussions for the Chatham Islands has turned out to be a false alarm.
Late last week an eagle-eyed Chatham Island fisherman pulled up a lobster pot and found a number of starfish in it that looked very similar to northern Pacific seastar.
Knowing the non-native northern Pacific seastar is high on the list of marine pests New Zealand definitely does not want in its waters, he immediately took the precautionary step of notifying the MFish Chatham Island Fisheries Officer, Chris Beal, of the discovery.
However, today, Dr Mike Barker, a starfish expert at Otago University, relieved concern by confirming that it is a very similar native species Sclerasterias mollis.
Northern Pacific seastar could have a serious impact on our aquaculture industry and marine environment if it arrived in New Zealand. It is a voracious predator of wild and farmed shellfish and many other marine animals and is found in huge numbers in parts of southern Australia, where it has been introduced.
MFish is extremely grateful to the fisherman who reported the find, and asks the public to continue to be vigilant, as their help is needed to assist with MFish surveillance efforts.