Marine pest worker off to French Polynesia

19 Aug 2022, 8:52 AM

A Northland Regional Council staff member is off to French Polynesia to talk about her work in the marine biosecurity field.

Marine Biosecurity Specialist Aless Smith joined the council in 2021 from Otago University’s New Zealand Marine Studies Centre where she had worked in marine education.

She has been invited to speak at a two-day workshop on marine biosecurity and detection tools of non-indigenous marine species in Tahiti and Moorea in late September.

Organised by the New Zealand-based non-profit the Blue Cradle Foundation, New Zealand’s largest independent science organisation the Cawthron Institute and the University of French Polynesia, Ms Smith, 27, will provide technical advice from an operational perspective in both a regional and interregional sense.

The workshop aims to strengthen cooperation between New Zealand and French Polynesia, the latter which does not have a management policy for marine pests in its ports.

The collaboration between the Cawthron Institute, the Blue Cradle Foundation and the council stemmed from workshops on marine biosecurity and microplastics held in Whangarei in June last year.

As well as speaking at the September event, Ms Smith says the workshop will be relevant to Northland as the focus is on subtropical expansion of marine species.

“There is relevance to Northland which is likely to face similar problems to that of other Pacific nations resulting from climate change.”

She is “very much looking forward to strengthening ties with other communities in the Pacific and also representing the council and showcasing all the great work we do here with others”.

“I’m also keen to share my experiences with local communities to encourage them to be more aware of biosecurity issues.”

The Blue Cradle Foundation proposes to elaborate on ship biofouling studies done by New Zealand and French Polynesian researchers in November 2018 which looked at rapid DNA sequencing technique to survey invasive alien species.

Among the themes the workshop will cover are anticipation of the arrival of new species to the Pacific, preventing their introduction and spread and management of current invasive species.

The bulk of the costs of Ms Smith’s trip are being met by the Blue Cradle Foundation.

Woman with marine pests in jars.

Aless Smith...travelling to French Polynesia to speak about marine pest work.