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


16 March 1998

Efforts to rid Port Phillip Bay of northern Pacific seastars will be stepped up following the allocation of $25,000 from the Howard government's Natural Heritage Trust.

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments are combining resources and expertise to counter this major threat to the Port Phillip Bay marine environment.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the funding boost reflects the seriousness of the threat posed by the northern Pacific seastar.

"Once established, the northern Pacific seastar can multiply rapidly and consume and destroy surrounding marine life, particularly shellfish, creating an underwater wasteland.

"The new funding will assist the Victorian Government to conduct a comprehensive seastar survey and removal program in Port Phillip Bay.

"It will also support a public awareness campaign to encourage community involvement in detecting the invading seastars.

"Over the next four months the program, involving scientific experts supported by community divers, will assess the extent and impact of the seastar incursion and remove seastars before they have the chance to spread and take over.

"Shortly after the first seastars were detected, the Victorian Government took the first step to control the spread of this pest by conducting an exotic pest survey of Port Phillip Bay.

"So far only a small number of juvenile seastars have been located in Port Phillip Bay. With the early action taken by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments there is hope that the pest can be controlled and possibly eliminated before it does permanent damage."

Cooperative national arrangements for this emergency incursion response system have been developed between Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory Governments, the CSIRO, industry and community groups.

The Commonwealth funding comes from the Introduced Marine Pests Program of Coasts and Clean Seas, a key component of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Media contact - Matt Brown 026 277 7640 or 0419 693 515
March 16, 1998

Commonwealth of Australia