Posted by: ahallatt | April 26, 2009

Northern Pacific Seastar Invaders

One of the nice things about Arctic Circle is that it led me to getting involved with a local environmental group called Earthcare St Kilda. They were set up to look after the penguins that nest in the breakwater by St Kilda pier and I have been out on PenguinWatch over the summer, to discourage people from disturbing the birds.

Another environmental threat to the foreshore ecosystem is the Northern Pacific Seastar.

 

Northern Pacific Seastar

Northern Pacific Seastar

 

seastars at st kilda beach

seastars at st kilda beach

 

 

 

These pretty, but voracious animals were probably brought here in ballast water in ships from Asia. They eat shellfish, crabs, other starfish and even themselves if they are still hungry (they can grow back their arms)! They first became a problem in Tasmania, before crossing the Bass Strait to set up home in Port Phillip Bay.

During the cooler months, the seastars move inshore and Earthcare aim to keep them under control by removing and destroying them. They did their first sweep last month and picked up over 1500 stars! I donned my wetsuit and joined in on Saturday. We were gratified to see that their numbers had been severely dented by the previous efforts, but there were still some stars to be had. It was also quite fun bobbing about under the pier – a view I don’t see very often.

 

volunteers bag seastars on a cloudy morning in Melbourne

volunteers bag seastars on a cloudy morning in Melbourne

wading for seastars by St Kilda pier

wading for seastars by St Kilda pier

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