Abduction of Sea Pancake (Didemnum vexillum) at HMAS Stirling

Didemnum vexillum, popularly known as Sea Pancake or Carpet Sea Squirt, is an increasingly common marine pest around the world. The Department of Defense engages companies such as Ventia to facilitate regular surveys monitoring Australian Navy waters, enabling early detection of invasive species.

Didemnum vexillum, popularly known as Sea Pancake or Carpet Sea Squirt, is an increasingly common marine pest around the world. The Department of Defense engages companies such as Ventia to facilitate regular surveys monitoring Australian Navy waters, enabling early detection of invasive species.

IIn April 2020, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), commissioned by Ventia, identified Sea Pancake at HMAS Stirling, WA. Ventia enlisted marine maintenance experts from Indianic Group to work with DPIRD to ensure the marine pest was brought under control.

Sea Pancake is usually transported when attached to marine vessels and with its spongy texture, it resembles dripping or bubbling pancake batter.

The significant increase and spread of Sea Pancake has become a public health, economic and environmental issue worldwide. It contains pathogenic bacteria, carries marine diseases and threatens aquaculture through its ability to grow on shellfish and negatively impact fish farming.

Ventia, WA Regional Operations Manager Phil Darling coordinated the collaborative response once the species was identified:

“HMAS Stirling is an important part of Defense naval capability and an environmentally sensitive site, so we needed to act quickly to control the invasive marine pest with minimal impact on Defense capability.”

Indianic Group was able to inspect, clean and recover suspicious species using a vacuum system, in a first for Sea Pancake removal. Indianic has adapted its processes to ensure zero impact on Navy vessels and has completed 3,500 minutes of dive time to date, collecting 245kg of marine growth, 8-10% of which identified as Didemnum vexillum.




“The equipment we use is commercially available, but we took three or four different pieces and put them together to create the vacuum system that clears the Sea Pancake from ship hulls, dock piles or anything. another place we find it,” says James Watson, Indianic. General director. “It’s an inventive and cost-effective solution, which avoids having to design one from scratch.”

James notes that an additional innovation is the power source as the system is powered by hooking up to their boat’s hydraulic system.

The whole process was a collaborative affair, as the DPIRD used both classroom and water dive training to ensure that Indianic was able to identify Didemnum vexillum, while Indianic familiarized the DPIRD with the use of the vacuum system and the procedure for collecting suspicious cash. Sea Pancake’s management procedures were also developed in collaboration and have since been shared with the DPIRD’s state counterpart in New South Wales.

Ventia Regional Operations Manager in WA Phil Darling says monthly meetings are held with Defense and other contractors to ensure lessons are shared as Sea Pancake threatens ports around the Australia. DPIRD and Indianic participate as needed, providing expert advice and ensuring best practice procedures are available to all.

According to James Watson, the partnership with Ventia has been very important for Indianic Group. Over the years, this has helped the company transform from a simple diving contractor to a surface and underwater construction and maintenance business.

“It’s a long-term relationship and it’s helped Indianic grow,” James said. “We have gone from a company that years ago did no design work to now where we have an in-house engineer, 23 full-time employees and a dozen casual employees that we rely on. .”

“The dream is for our people to be qualified both as divers and in the trades,” says James. “Availability for underwater work may be somewhat limited, but for surface maintenance tasks around docks and ports there is much more room for growth, especially on Defense related projects. “

While the removal of the invasive Sea Pancake provides an example of collaboration for an underwater project, the repair of the hilltop drinking water tanks at HMAS Stirling initially brought Ventia and Indianic together for a project to surface maintenance. After winning a tender to repair the tanks, Ventia completed most of the exterior work, but brought in Indianic to reline the tanks and install a new roof section.

“Of all our customers, I would say that Ventia has contributed the most to increasing our capabilities,” says James. “The relationship gives us opportunities to bid on work that we traditionally wouldn’t even have thought of.”

To learn more about our defense capabilities, visit www.ventia.com/defense

Abduction of Sea Pancake (Didemnum vexillum) at HMAS Stirling

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Last update: May 23, 2022

Posted: Jun 01, 2022

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