A pre-conference workshop. Identification of Invasive Polychaetes started on 1 August.

A large number of marine animals are accidently introduced into Australian waters every year as a result of hull fouling, ballast water, or through movement of aquaculture-associated stock. While many do not survive, those that establish often become economically important pest species.

Marine pests significantly threaten Australia's marine environment by displacing our native species from their habitats, changing our coastal areas and damaging our fishing and aquaculture industries. Timely and accurate identification is the first and most critical step towards an understanding of the risk of potential bio-invasion and preventing these from becoming established.

Inside Pest polychaete workshop #1
Inside Pest polychaete workshop #1 Image: Australian Museum
© Australian Museum

This 2-day workshop was designed for environmental consultants, fisheries staff, and biosecurity officers, the people who need to identify invasive worms and to distinguish them from Australian species. In some cases ships or drilling rigs with heavy fouling are prevented from entering ports and must be cleaned at a considerable cost.

The course was coordinated by AM scientists Dr Pat Hutchings and Dr Elena Kupriyanova. Visiting worm experts Dr Robin Wilson (Museum Victoria), Dr Maria Capa (Norway), Dr Harry ten Hove (Netherlands), Dr Vasily Radashevsky (Russia), Ms Leslie Harris (USA), Dr Waka Sato-Okoshi (Japan), and Dr Carol Simon (South Africa) explained to participants how to identify invasive polychaetes from groups that have been most often transported around the world.

Each participant received access to the newly developed digital guide that contains fully illustrated keys to introduced and similar native species, as well as those listed as potential invasives. Sixty-nine species, both from the AM collections and freshly collected material, were included in the first release of the guide and there is so much to be done in the future. Production of this guide was sponsored by a grant from the Australian Museum Foundation to Pat Hutchings and Elena Kupriyanova.

Many thanks are due to Leica for providing microscopes and the AM webteam for developing the web application showcasing the high quality photographs made by Eunice Wong. The workshop was sponsored by a FRDC grant towards the travel costs of visiting experts.