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Boaties target of aquatic pest campaign

MEDIA RELEASE

Boaties target of aquatic pest campaign

For immediate release: Monday 13 December 2004

Recreational boaties are the target of a major summer campaign that aims to keep the Rotorua lakes free of new “aquatic hitchhikers” which could eventually degrade water quality.

Environment Bay of Plenty and the Department of Conservation are joining forces over summer to promote the message that skippers must always clean their boats of weeds when they leave a lake and before they enter a new lake.

Staff from both agencies will visit boat ramps over the holiday period to talk to boat users and make sure they understand the importance of the action – and actually do it. They will also give away floating key rings in the shape of a buoy and reminder stickers to put on boat trailers. The on-the-ground work will be supported with other promotional activities, including posters in camping grounds and at lakeside garages.

“We are putting a lot of effort into getting this message across because it is so important to the future of the lakes,” says Environment Bay of Plenty pest plant coordinator John Mather. Millions of dollars are being spent on the Rotorua Lakes Protection and Restoration Action Programme, “and it would be an absolute disaster if this work improved water quality – only to have it degraded again by new aquatic pests”.

Both local and out-of-town boaties have a key role to play in protecting the lakes from pest fish and new aquatic weeds, Mr Mather explains. “When boats move between lakes, or come from outside the region, they pose a huge risk. It only takes a single fragment of weed to transfer the eggs of pest fish or cause a new infestation of aquatic weeds.”

All of Rotorua’s lakes are currently free of pest fish, like koi carp and catfish. Some lakes are free of all or several species of aquatic weeds. Lake Rotomahana, for example, does not host any of the more invasive exotic weeds while Lake Rotoma has one species but not the whole range.

“If pest fish or new weeds establish in the Rotorua lakes, they are likely to degrade water quality, become a nuisance to lake users, and escalate the decline in native aquatic plant communities,” Mr Mather adds.

Skippers must inspect their boats, including propellers anchor chains and trailers, when leaving a lake. They need to remove all weeds, flush out jet units, and wash their boat down if necessary.

Environment Bay of Plenty works in partnership with the Department of Conservation to keep the region both koi carp and catfish free. Between December and February, they jointly monitor the Rotorua lakes for the pest fish.

ENDS

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