After four years since its first sighting, voracious predator the Northern Pacific seastar has been found in the Gippsland Lakes by a community member prawning at Wattle Point.
Principal Officer Invasive Marine Species from Agriculture Victoria, Dr Richard Stafford-Bell, explained that the key features of the northern Pacific seastar are its five-pointed arms with upturned tips and yellow and purple markings.
“Members of our community have a strong role to play in reducing the spread of marine pests and protecting our unique marine environment”, said Dr Stafford-Bell.
“We’re calling on members of the community to report any sightings of the Northern Pacific seastars in the Gippsland Lakes, noting the location, date and time and including a photograph to assist investigations.”
Peter Jennings, Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee Co-Chair, said the species hadn’t been seen in the Gippsland Lakes since 2015.
“The northern Pacific seastar was first spotted by members of the Friends of Beware Reef on one of their dives,” explained Mr Jennings.
“This prompted a swift response from the agencies as well as a number of projects surveying the Gippsland Lakes.
“No further signs of the seastar were found since 2015. This highlights how important it is to be vigilant to marine pests. In both cases it has been a member of our community that has spotted the seastar and reported it straight away.”
The Northern Pacific seastar can be easily transported by currents or relocated to new areas attached to fishing and diving equipment and the hulls of vessels, including kayaks and canoes.
Mr Jennings said that ‘boat hygiene’ was vital in stopping the spread of marine pests.
“All equipment used in the ocean or lakes should be washed in fresh water after use then dried thoroughly to help reduce the spread of marine pests.
“This is really important when we’re boating in areas where we know marine pests exist, such as Port Phillip bay and other areas.”
If a member of the public suspects they have found a Northern Pacific seastar, they can place it in a sealed bag or container, and it can be frozen.
Please report sightings to: email@example.com.