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INVASIVE MUSSEL HEADS SOUTH

Mytilus galloprovincialis in the sea chests of the SA Agulhas.

Researchers of the Centre for Invasion Biology have just published the very first surveys of the sea chests (covered recesses into the ships hull) of any vessel travelling to Antarctic waters. In their assessment of the support vessel, the SA Agulhas, they found substantial populations of the highly invasive Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis (Lamarck). Using information from the ship's log, the researchers concluded that the oldest mussels have survived transport to the Antarctic continent and to several Southern Ocean islands.

The Mediterranean mussel is listed on the Global Invasive Species Database as one if the world's 100 worst invasive alien species. Whilst it is unlikely that it would be able to establish populations in the freezing waters of Antarctica, there is a chance it could survive the comparatively warm waters off Marion and Gough Island.

This discovery is concerning, and demonstrates that Antarctic research and supply vessels are important vectors for marine non-indigenous species into the Antarctic region. However, the bright side is that the ship's operator is of the view that the problem can be dealt with in a reasonably straightforward manner. Given that the mussels also interfere with the efficiency of the ship's operations, it is in the interests of all concerned to implement treatments to prevent mussel build up: a clear case of aligned priorities. To read the published article please visit http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v339/p307-310/.