On the look out for marine pests in Tauranga Harbour

16 January 2009

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) will next week be looking at what’s living in Tauranga Harbour as part of a nationwide surveillance programme targeted at detecting a range of unwanted marine pests.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has been contracted to undertake the survey, and the field team will be on site from Monday 19 January to Friday 23 January.

MAFBNZ’s current targeted marine surveillance programme, started early in 2008, is looking for a range of unwanted marine pests in some of New Zealand’s busiest and therefore high risk locations - namely ports and marinas of first entry for international vessels.

This programme builds on the results of an ongoing surveillance and baseline survey programme that has been undertaken since 2001 which has looked at commercial ports and marinas nationwide, producing a snapshot of what’s there, and providing a benchmark to measure the effectiveness of border control and other management practices.

MAFBNZ’s Senior Marine Advisor (Surveillance), Brendan Gould, says the programme’s key objective is to detect potentially invasive and harmful marine animals and plants early enough to maximise the chance of removing or controlling them.

“This is done by targeting the search effort towards certain species and their preferred habitats within these ports and marinas”

The NIWA team will use a range of methods to detect the species, from crab and fish traps through to diver surveys and shore surveys.

Brendan Gould says, while targeting surveillance at high risk locations will increase the chance of early detection, it does not guarantee detection and is only a small component of an effective surveillance system.

“As long as international vessels visit New Zealand it’s inevitable that some introductions will occur so there is always going to be a need for monitoring and surveillance. The more eyes we have looking for problem species, the greater our chance of detecting potential pests early enough to do something about them,” he says.

“Those people that spend a lot of time around our coastline are this countries biosecurity eyes – they are the best placed to notice something out of the ordinary and the assistance they provide by simply being aware of marine biosecurity is invaluable.”

“The role regular marine users in particular play in protecting our unique marine environment is vital. Exotic organisms can establish and spread very quickly so it’s important to be alert for sea life that looks different and report it immediately”

To find out more about unwanted marine pests and how to report any unusual or suspicious sea life, go to www.biosecurity.govt.nz.

MAFBNZ’s Targeted Marine Surveillance Program will be repeated in Tauranga Harbour at approximately six monthly intervals (in summer and winter) until at least 2011.

Media contact:

Lisa Gibbison
Communications, MAFBNZ
Ph: 04 894 0432 or 029 894 0432

Contacts for operational matters:

Don Morrisey
Marine Surveillance Programme Manager, NIWA
Ph: 03 545 7744

Graeme Inglis
Marine Surveillance Programme Manager, NIWA
Ph: 03 348 8987 or 021 656 773

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33