Hunt­ing down ma­rine pests hull by hull

The Northland Age - - Local News -

An es­ti­mated 2000 boat hulls will be checked by divers be­tween now and mid-May for a range of un­wanted ma­rine pests that are threat­en­ing North­land’s ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment.

North­land Re­gional Coun­cil biose­cu­rity man­ager — ma­rine and strat­egy, Sophia Clark, said North­land-based dive con­trac­tors Ma­rine En­vi­ron­men­tal Field Ser­vices of­fi­cially be­gan the 2018-19 in­spec­tion pro­gramme in Whanga¯rei Har­bour last month.

“We’ve been car­ry­ing out these hull in­spec­tions for sev­eral years, and are espe­cially keen to en­sure ves­sels are free of ma­rine pests be­fore their own­ers start trav­el­ling to new ar­eas with the on­set of warmer sum­mer weather,” she said.

Two thou­sand hulls, rang­ing from recre­ational craft and fish­ing boats to su­pery­achts and barges, had been checked over the last in­spec­tion sea­son, and with pests like the Mediter­ranean fan­worm now es­tab­lished in Whanga¯rei Har­bour, and re­cently be­ing found at O¯ pua, the own­ers of ves­sels trav­el­ling from those ar­eas to other lo­ca­tions were be­ing urged to be ex­tra vig­i­lant.

Ms Clark said as well as rules cov­er­ing the trans­porta­tion of ma­rine pests, the coun­cil now set lim­its re­gard­ing the amount of bio­foul­ing (build-ups of mi­cro-or­gan­isms, al­gae, plants and pests) ves­sels were per­mit­ted to carry.

The plan de­manded that any ves­sel en­ter­ing North­land wa­ters, or mov­ing from one har­bour to an­other, must have no more than ‘light foul­ing,’ de­fined as a slime layer and/or bar­na­cles and a few patches (up to 100mm in di­am­e­ter) of macro­foul­ing.

The own­ers of ves­sels found with more than light foul­ing would be no­ti­fied so they could en­sure it was clean be­fore mov­ing to a new area. If a pest species was de­tected, own­ers would be asked to haul the ves­sels out and clean or treat them, a po­ten­tially costly process. A $500 fine may also ap­ply.

Ms Clark said the coun­cil was very ap­pre­cia­tive of the steps many own­ers were al­ready tak­ing, and had been im­pressed by a no­tice­able change in the at­ti­tude to boat clean­li­ness in re­cent years.

“As an ex­am­ple, of the 140 ves­sels in­spected over the last Christ­mas pe­riod, just two had a ma­rine pest species present.” Those pests had been con­cealed in ‘niche’ ar­eas, which re­quired spe­cial at­ten­tion when ap­ply­ing anti-foul­ing or ‘lift­ing and wash­ing’.

“Coun­cil strongly sug­gests dou­ble-check­ing these niche ar­eas, like the base of the keel, be­hind an­odes and bow thrusters be­fore your ves­sel goes back in the wa­ter.”

North­land’s ma­rina op­er­a­tors had also been very sup­port­ive.

“Ma­rina op­er­a­tors have al­ready been re­quir­ing a re­ceipt prov­ing a ves­sel con­forms to what’s been dubbed the ‘six or one’ ini­tia­tive, ei­ther be­ing anti-fouled within six months of leav­ing a known fan­worm-in­fected area, or hav­ing un­der­gone a ‘lift and wash’ within one month of leav­ing an in­fected area like Auck­land,” she said.

■ De­tails of the coun­cil’s rules and re­quire­ments can be found at www.nrc.govt.nz/marinebiose­cu­rity

PIC­TURE / NRC

Ma­rine En­vi­ron­men­tal Field Ser­vices team mem­bers Emma Kear­ney (left) and Corey Dal­ley, skip­per Lars Vo­gel and diver Brett Sut­ton, plan to in­spect around 2000 boat hulls in most moor­ing ar­eas and pop­u­lar an­chor­ages over the next six months.

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