Anonymous survey to help in battle against marine pests

7 Jun 2016

Boaties are being asked to take part in an anonymous online survey on when – and how often – they clean their vessel’s hulls as biosecurity experts try to stay one step ahead of marine pests threatening Northland’s unique marine environment.

Tutukaka-based Northland Regional Council member Paul Dimery says the council is keen to tap into a new, proactive way of protecting the region from marine pests.

“Rather than trying to tackle the pests once they have arrived here, we want to manage the pathways or vectors by which these pests are spread.”

Councillor Dimery says changes to the Biosecurity Act several years ago allow regional councils to use a new tool called ‘Pathways Plans’ to do this.

“Biofouling (marine growth) on vessel hulls is the main way that marine pests are moved from one place to another and council is looking at introducing rules that set limits for the amount of biofouling vessels can have on their hulls.”

The rules would be part of a Regional Marine Pathway Plan for Northland developed under the Biosecurity Act.

Councillor Dimery says a Pathways Plan would focus on the human activities that may transport marine pests from one place to another, rather than the pest species themselves.

“The plan would apply to local recreational and commercial vessels as well as those from outside of Northland,” he says.  “International traffic arrivals are slightly different in that they are managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.”

He says the cleaner a vessel hull is, the less likely it is to be carrying marine pests, however, the council appreciates that keeping hulls clean is no easy task.

“We understand there are costs associated with keeping hulls clean and need you to help us understand the extent of these costs.”

He says the council has put together a short survey for people to give anonymous feedback about the timing and frequency of hull maintenance and any issues they anticipate for vessel owners in regards to hull biofouling rules.

“We need to find a balance between protecting the marine environment from marine pests and the costs of keeping vessels clean.”

Councillor Dimery says while about 90 people have already responded to the survey (which will help the council develop a practical plan to manage the spread of marine pests) the council is keen to hear from as many people as possible.

“Marine biosecurity only works when people work together.”