AFTER four years of no sightings, the highly invasive and predatory Northern Pacific Seastar, Asterias amurensis, has been rediscovered by Parks Victoria divers in Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Three divers were conducting a routine search in the lower end of Tidal River last week challenged by low visibility when they found a single mature Seastar measuring 15cm in diameter underneath the park’s popular Tidal River Footbridge.
In 2012 the Northern Pacific Seastar was discovered for the first time at Tidal River prompting significant efforts to prevent the pest from becoming established in the Tidal River estuary and spreading to the pristine marine environments around the Prom and further east. This involved extensive diver surveys and hand removals of seastars over the following year.
This recent finding will now spark a series of follow-up surveys in the river over the coming months to determine the extent of infestation and control efforts to prevent resurgence of the marine pest once again.
Parks Victoria Marine Pest Officer Jonathon Stevenson has urged visitor to take their own precautions.
“We urge all visitors who enjoy being in and on the water to wash and dry their boats and gear thoroughly before moving to a new location,” Mr Stevenson said.
“Now that we know the Northern Pacific Seastar is back in Tidal River our challenge is to stop it spreading to other parts of the park or further along the Victorian coastline.
“Sightings of suspected Northern Pacific Seastars can be reported to marine.pests@ecodev.vic.gov.au with the location, date and time and photograph to assist investigations.”
The Northern Pacific Seastar can be easily transported by currents or relocated to new areas attached to fishing and diving equipment and the hulls of vessels, including kayaks and canoes.
What can I do to prevent the spread of marine pests?
• 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.
For more information call 13 1963 or visit www.parks.vic.gov.au