Far North charter aims to reduce marine pest impacts

21 Nov 2016

A new biosecurity charter recognising the collective efforts of Far North marinas to reduce the impacts of marine pests has been signed at Opua.

The Far North Marine Biosecurity Charter is a joint industry and agency response to managing marine pests in the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa and Mangonui areas.

It was formally signed by representatives of Far North marinas, recreational boaties, Far North Holdings Limited and the Northland Regional Council at a low-key event in Opua on Friday.

David Sinclair, the regional council’s Deputy Chairman and a keen recreational yachtie, says the charter recognises signatories’ shared concerns over the threats marine pests pose to Northland’s environment and marina industry.

“This new charter recognises the collective leadership shown by Far North marinas in our shared bid to lessen the impact of marine pests, including what can be done to reduce their spread.”

Councillor Sinclair says unwanted marine pests like Mediterranean fanworm have the potential to harm Northland’s shellfish, its tourism and marine industries and add to fouling problems on structures and vessels.

“While unfortunately fanworm is now established in Whangarei Harbour, 14 other Northland harbours and estuaries remain fanworm free and council is very supportive of marinas’ efforts to help spread the word about the importance of keeping a clean hull.”

Northland currently receives over 500 international vessels annually, with more than 1700 domestic craft also visiting.

Councillor Sinclair says the region already leads the way in attempts to prevent marine pests invading its remaining harbours and this year aims to survey more than 1500 hulls in an effort to prevent further spread.

“Over the past several years we’ve also researched and secured new control devices such as an inflatable vessel quarantine facility and had new treatments for marine pests such as the use of chlorine approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

The region is also investigating novel approaches to marine pest control and has been awarded science grants for research.

“We’ve also joined forces with other regions and a ‘Top of the North’ grouping including Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty share a common website – www.marinepests.nz – and information and advice to travelling boaties aimed at reducing the risk of marine pest spread, sharing resources and allowing for consistency of requirements.”

Northland was also among regions that co-presented at large public events like Auckland’s boat show.

Cr Sinclair says despite all the work that has been done to date, some significant challenges remain.

“But as a council we want to keep an open mind as to how our role as a regulator can assist industry and others but keep the impacts of marine pests in Northland as low as possible”.

One proactive way under investigation was the use of a new tool called a ‘Pathways Plan’ under the Biosecurity Act to do this.

“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.”

“Marine growth – or biofouling – on vessel hulls is the main way marine pests are moved from one place to another and we’re 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 Management Plan for Northland developed under the Biosecurity Act.

The Pathways Plan – which is still being developed – would focus on the human activities that may transport marine pests from one place to another, rather than the pest species themselves.  It’s expected to be made available for public consultation next year.