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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Report Confirms Exotic Seastar Threat


1 April 1997
(32/97)

An estimated 27.5 million northern Pacific seastars now inhabit Tasmanian waters, with up to seven per square metre recorded in parts of the Derwent River.

A new report, released today by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill, includes the first comprehensive research into the distribution, ecology and impact of the northern Pacific seastar in Tasmania.

The report has been prepared over two years for the Commonwealth's Invasive Species Program by the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

"The report shows this introduced seastar, first found in Tasmanian waters in 1986, has well-established populations and feeds on a range of native marine species, primarily molluscs.

"It is likely the northern Pacific seastar, a native of the coasts of south east Asia, was released into the Derwent River estuary in discarded ballast water from ships and has since spread rapidly to regions in east and south-east Tasmania.

"The potential threat this species poses to the marine environment highlights the importance of the Howard Government's decision to commit $1 million for research into ballast water.

"The Commonwealth is also providing $104 000 for a new community-based project to enlist local coastal communities in the early detection of exotic marine pests.

"The introduction of harmful marine pests and diseases in ships' ballast water is recognised as one of the major environmental concerns of the 1990s, and if these pests are detected early enough, it is more likely action can be taken to control them.

"The report recommends providing seastar traps to some mussel, salmon and oyster farmers and looking at ways of preventing the movement of seawater from southern Tasmania during the seastar's main spawning and larvae periods from July to January.

"A range of excellent material is provided in the two-part report which will form the basis of future research and planning for marine management agencies throughout Australia."

The Introduced Northern Pacific Seastar, Asterias amurensis, in Tasmania can be purchased from Environment Australia and AGPS Bookshops for $20.00. The Invasive Species Program is administered by Environment Australia.

Contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 06 277 7640 or 0419 693 515

Public Affairs (Environment Australia) 06 250 0766

Commonwealth of Australia