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Sea Squirt Entrenched

NEW ZEALAND - Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton says it is no longer feasible to eradicate a sea squirt that is threatening to play havoc with the South Island's $300 million aquaculture industry.

Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) and its predecessor MFish have known about the Didemnum vexillum sea squirt for five years but decided to take no action because it was deemed to be a native species.

Meanwhile, the squirt has destroyed two mussel farms in the Marlborough Sounds, infested salmon-farm cages and moorings and may be present in other parts of the Sounds as well.

The New Zealand Marine Farming Association (MFA) and the Marlborough District Council were calling on the Government to help pay for surveys and possibly a control programme.

Anderton said he was awaiting a report into the issue before deciding on funding.

"Debating whether Didemnum was native or exotic, and therefore which agency is responsible for leading any action is irrelevant and does nothing to solve the problem. Eradication is simply not feasible and management will require a team effort," Anderton said.