A science student has been sentenced for importing and selling a prohibited fish tank algae that has the potential to cause irreparable damage to New Zealand's aquaculture.
Jasmine Maxwell, 20, appeared at the Christchurch District Court today for illegally importing marimo moss balls, a type of fish tank algae, last year.
The moss balls are prohibited here as authorities say the algae could wipe out entire species of New Zealand native fish.
Mark Bullian from the Ministry of Primary Industries said because marimo is a green algae, it could interrupt the whole ecological system.
"The worst case scenario would be for the moss ball to become widespread and highly abundant in some areas.
"It could force certain species of native and commercial species of fish and eels out as well."
Maxwell had illegally imported the marimo moss balls on several occasions, and sold them online for up to $16 each.
When packages addressed to Maxwell were first intercepted in Customs, she was warned about the possible consequences but continued to import the algae.
Prosecutor Grant Fletcher said the 20-year-old narrowly avoided serving prison time.
"She was extremely naive. I think she was arrogant and incredibly foolish."
And there are concerns Maxwell may have tipped her fish tank water down her household drain which runs into the Avon River.
Authorities are asking the public to look out for signs of any suspicious algae.