15 Jan 2021

Vigilance urged on toxic weed found near coastline

5:25 pm on 15 January 2021

Beachgoers are being urged to report any sighting of a toxic weed as they soak up the sunshine this summer.

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Sea spurge is a small shrub with tightly packed blue-green leaves. Photo: Northland Regional Council/ Frank Vincentz

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said sea spurge - a small shrub with tightly packed blue-green leaves - has been sighted more along Aotearoa's coastline.

"Having a day at the beach is quintessential to a New Zealand summer, if sea spurge became well established in New Zealand, it could jeopardise that," MPI's director of readiness and responses John Walsh said.

It invades the shore just above the high tide mark, disrupts sand dunes and stops native plants from being able to grow.

The weed was first found in 2012 and seeds are believed to have travelled via ocean currents from Australia where this species is invasive and widely established along its coastline.

Young sea spurge (left) and older sea spurge.

Young sea spurge (left) and older sea spurge. Photo: Ministry of Primary Industries

MPI is urging people not to remove the invasive weed because its sap can cause skin irritation or temporary blindness if it gets in the eyes.

"Whilst you're out and about this summer, aside from the age-old tropes of slip, slop, slap and wrap, and being a tidy Kiwi, we're asking everyone to look out for and report if they see what they think might be sea spurge.

"We can all work together to keep our beaches beautiful and preserve them for generations to come," Walsh said.

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