Parks Victoria lend a kelping hand to Port Phillip

Undaria pinnatifida kelp infestation at Pope's Eye. Credit: Parks Victoria

Around 500 kilograms of highly invasive pest seaweed was successfully removed from Pope’s Eye, a popular diving and snorkeling site in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, in January and February this year.

The Undaria pinnatifida kelp, also known as Japanese kelp or Wakame, was removed by a team from Parks Victoria which included scuba divers, snorkelers and a crewed vessel.

A dive in December 2016 had confirmed the major infestation of around 0.1 hectares at Pope’s Eye, after the seaweed was first observed at the site during monitoring activities earlier that month.

The large-scale removal of a marine pest such as this had never been attempted previously in an open-water environment in Australia.

In late February, a separate dive also successfully removed a small amount of Undaria from nearby Portsea Hole. However, the water depth and tide at the time of the dive prevented Parks Victoria from removing a larger amount of kelp.

Removal is necessary as the intrusive kelp can rapidly form underwater forests and colonise disturbed areas, outcompeting native marine flora.

Parks Victoria will monitor these areas for the recovery of native species and will continue to develop effective management techniques for marine pests.

Parks Victoria reminds the public to be particularly vigilant when moving boats or equipment from Port Phillip and Western Port to other parts of Victoria, as well as carrying out correct washing and drying practices.

Sightings of suspected Undaria pinnatifida should be reported to the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning on 136 186.