A smothering sea pest could have far-reaching effects beyond devastation to the mussel industry if immediate action is not taken to eradicate it, the mussel industry says.
New Zealand Marine Farm Association executive officer Graeme Coates said today boats and ferries could also be severely impacted if restrictions on their movements were put in place because of sea squirt.
"I liken the incursion to the bee mite varroa -- and look what happened there. So much time was spent collecting information and finding out where it was, and then restrictions had to be put in place," he said.
Scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) were diving in Picton's Waikawa marina today to determine the spread of sea squirt in the area.
A single specimen was confirmed on the hull of a vessel which had sailed to Picton from the Viaduct Basin in Auckland last week.
That vessel was quickly removed from the water and has been thoroughly cleaned.
The NIWA survey team will use scuba searches for the sea squirt, allowing the team to sample a variety of habitats quickly.
The clubbed tunicate (sea squirt), which arrived in New Zealand from overseas, has also been confirmed at the Viaduct Basin in Auckland and at Lyttelton Harbour.
Dive surveys at Auckland's Viaduct Basin began yesterday.
Members of Biosecurity NZ's response team met representatives of the marine farming industry yesterday to investigate working together on the situation.
Marlborough marine farmers supported mussel farmers in the north, saying immediate eradication needed to take place.