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Boat owners urged to help protect Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park from pest seastar invasion

Monday 25 March, 2013

Parks Victoria is appealing to boat owners, divers and snorkelers to help defend one of the State’s oldest and best-loved marine protected areas from invasion by one of Australia’s most destructive marine pests - the Northern Pacific Seastar.

The first official sighting of Seastars at Popes Eye in January has sparked concern amongst the recreational dive and tourism sector and prompted Parks Victoria to work with the local community and tourism industry volunteers to help control infestations in this area.

“The Northern Pacific Seastar is one of the most damaging marine pests in Australia. It’s highly invasive, and destructive. It eats almost anything it can catch, including the native shellfish that are at the base of the marine food chain,” said with Parks Victoria Marine Ranger Steve Tuohy.

A major effort by Parks Victoria rangers to survey the area impacted found that the Northern Pacific Seastars are currently confined to areas at around 10 metres depth.

“We removed more than 500 Northern Pacific Seastars while doing this survey, but this is just the beginning of what will need to be a long-term campaign,” said Mr Tuohy.

Last year, Parks Victoria rangers worked with a team of volunteer divers and snorkellers to successfully remove the Northern Pacific Seastar from Tidal River at Wilson’s Promontory following initial sightings of the pest.

“We’re hoping that a similar joint effort will help to manage the invasion at Pope’s Eye. We are going to keep the pressure on these pests by working with our partners in the dive tourism industry and local dive clubs to remove Northern Pacific Seastars and protect this beautiful marine national park,”

Just one female Northern Pacific Seastar can produce 20 million eggs, which are easily spread by boats and equipment.

“Parks Victoria is urging all boat owners and recreational divers to play a part in preventing the spread of marine pests by rinsing all equipment thoroughly with fresh water and allowing it to dry before moving to new areas, you can help stop them from spreading.”

“Apart from the ecological impact, the sea stars destruction can also potentially have a direct economic impact on tourism, fishing and aquaculture, and local business.”

Pope’s Eye supports a wide range of marine life including kelp forests and seagrasses, seabirds, and many species of fish and invertebrates. This diversity of marine life, and the protection for vessels by the rock fortification, combine to make the site one of the most-visited locations within Victoria’s marine protected area system. 

Pope’s Eye is a historic man made fortification within the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and is one of the most popular diving and snorkelling destinations in Victoria.

For more information on marine pests visit www.dse.vic.gov.au/marine  

A video clip of Parks Victoria staff surveying Popes Eye and removing seastars can be viewed at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6yef1Ax7Yo

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