INVASIVE Northern Pacific Seastars (Asterias amurensis) have been discovered for the first time at Tidal River within Wilsons Promontory National Park. The seastars were sighted from the Tidal River footbridge last Thursday, and were confirmed by Parks Victoria staff as being Northern Pacific Seastars.
Parks Victoria promptly deployed an incident control team to monitor the spread in consideration of the high value of the marine environment surrounding Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Incident Controller Matt Hoskins described the Northern Pacific Seastar as a large seastar with five distinct arms that taper to pointed, upturned tips.
“Northern Pacific Seastars feed on a wide range of native animals and can have a major effect on the marine food chain,” said Mr Hoskins. “The species exists primarily in areas where wave action is low. It is not dangerous or harmful to humans. “
Over 100 specimens have now been collected from Tidal River and confirmed as Northern Pacific Seastars.
Mr Hoskins said the team acted swiftly to ensure a rapid response, with teams focusing comprehensive search efforts on Tidal River, Norman Bay, Squeaky Beach, Oberon Bay, Picnic Beach, Whisky Beach and Sealers Cove.
“So far, the searches have only uncovered the Northern Pacific Seastars within Tidal River itself. We are hoping it may be an isolated event, though we are not taking any chances,” said Mr Hoskins.
The full-scale search involving scuba-diving, snorkelling and rockpool inspections continued across the weekend.
Mr Hoskins said that it would be difficult to pin-point exactly how the seastars arrived at this location.
“Our focus now is to ensure the removal of all Northern Pacific Seastars and how we can prevent any further spreading of these marine pests into other areas of the park.
“Boats can easily spread these pests so it is important that anyone using boats ensures their boat is kept clean and all marine life clinging to the surface are removed,” he said.
Parks Victoria is encouraging all boat owners to be especially vigilant in keeping their boats clean when travelling around the waters surrounding Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Additionally, Parks Victoria is encouraging the public to report sightings of the five-armed starfish which match the description of Northern Pacific Seastars in all locations outside of Port Phillip Bay and Tidal River.