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Rangers remove underwater pest from Popes Eye

Tuesday 5 December, 2017

A team of Parks Victoria divers have spent over 40 hours underwater on multiple dives removing around two tonnes of highly invasive seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida, from Popes Eye in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.

Also known as the Blackberry of the Sea, Undaria is an algae from north east Asia, commonly known as Wakame. It was first detected in Port Phillip Bay in 1996, but only discovered at Popes Eye while conducting video surveys in late 2016.

Parks Victoria has been working hard to remove it from Popes Eye, with eight dives undertaken this year so far.

“Undaria has a huge environmental impact on both the marine animals and plants,” says Marine Pest Project Officer Jonathon Stevenson.

“The timing of its removal is very important. We have timed these dives to remove maturing plants before they reproduce, thus reducing its spread at this important site of marine conservation and recreational diving.”

Popes Eye’s horse-shoe shaped structure is a relic from the 1800’s fortification of Port Phillip Heads. It was never completed and instead became Victoria’s first fully protected Marine Reserve in 1979. The size and numbers of fish and marine life there are the result of this long-term protection, and why it’s one of Port Phillip Bay’s most popular dive and snorkel sites.

Undaria was recently recorded for the first time near Point Lonsdale, indicating the invasion is moving further along the coastline and getting closer to establishing outside Port Phillip Bay.

“Undaria is a significant problem across Port Phillip Bay. We’re making good progress in protecting Popes Eye, but it is an ongoing concern” Jonathon said.

He urges all boat owners to be aware that they can potentially spread Undaria to other locations when they move their boats.

“Always wash vessels and equipment thoroughly in fresh water after use, and dry them before going to other parts of the coast. This will reduce the spread of this invasive pest beyond Port Phillip Bay and along our coastline” he said.

Media enquiries
Sally Nowlan
0417 391 175

Parks Victoria media centre