17 Aug 2015

Mussel farmers sound fanworm warning

3:53 pm on 17 August 2015

Mussel farmers in the Coromandel Peninsula have welcomed council funding to slow the spread of an invasive pest but they say it won't get rid of it altogether.

Mediterranean fanworms on the hull of a boat found moored in Pilot Bay.

Mediterranean fanworms on the hull of a boat. Photo: Bay of Plenty Regional Council

The Mediterranean fanworm is a marine pest that threatens the mussel farming industry because it eats plankton and reduces the growing rate of mussels.

To help tackle the pest, the Waikato Regional Council has announced $250,000 of funding.

Coromandel Marine Farmers Association executive officer Tom Hollings said the association needed to work more with the council and boat owners to make sure boats didn't accelerate the spread.

"I think, frankly, Auckland and the western (Hauraki) Gulf have given up, and it's fairly rampant in the channels around Auckland and all around Waiheke Island, so it's a matter of time before it establishes in Coromandel."

Mr Hollings said while marine farmers were keen to do what they could, the best solution was to make sure marine pests didn't arrive in the first place.

"These critters are so cryptic and fecund and the marine environment is so hard to manage, the real solution ... is to keep them out ... we've got limited options once it gets to New Zealand."

Mr Hollings said the fanworm arrived in Lyttelton in 2008, and had quickly moved to Auckland by 2010.

"Once they realised, it had already got away on them".

He said it would be good to work with the council further on what could be done to reduce the rate of spread.

"We understand this critter spawns around early spring in September / October.

"We'd like to understand in terms of moving our small crops, as we have to do out around the farms to spread them out for final grow out, how we can minimise the risk of spread through that.

Mr Hollings said there was some debate with the council over how established the pest is.

"I think they're of the hope they can eliminate it from Coromandel Harbour, which would be a great thing if they could. But I'm just sceptical of that, I think it's got away on us now."

Mr Hollings said the mussel and oyster industry was worth $100 million and it was hoped it would grow by 50 percent in the next decade.

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