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Greens Seek Foreign Algae Invasion Urgent Action

21 December 2004

Greens seek urgent action on foreign algae invasion

Green Party Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street is calling for Biosecurity New Zealand to step up its efforts to eradicate an invasive aquatic weed known as "rock snot" in North America.

New Zealand scientists believe the algae could have been in the Lower Waiau and Mararoa Rivers south of Te Anau for as long as two years. Biosecurity New Zealand Security Adviser Amelia Pascoe has described the algae as looking like slime but feeling like wet cotton wool. Ms Pascoe said it could form flowing rat tails and when dry, could turn white and look like tissue paper. As little as one or two cells could be enough to spread the algae to a new river system.

"Increasingly and rapidly, the Didymosphenia geminata (didymo) algae will choke our waterways and threaten the survival of our freshwater ecosystems, including trout fisheries, if we don't contain it quickly ," Mr Ewen-Street said.

"Every boatie and fisherman in that part of the country has a responsibility to wash their boats and fishing tackle thoroughly whether they have knowingly been in contact with the algae or not."

"It's not enough for Biosecurity New Zealand to ask people to avoid using the two rivers and advise those who come into contact with them to how to clean their gear.

"We don't know how the algae reached New Zealand. It's thought it might have crossed our biosecurity borders on anglers' gear, boats or even earthmoving equipment brought in from North America. In the meantime it is up to freshwater boaties and fishermen to take every precaution they can".

Mr Ewen-Street said anyone who knowingly spread the didymo would be liable, under the Biosecurity Act 1993, for a fine of up to $10,000 and/or five years' imprisonment.

"Unfortunately, no place in the world with river systems invaded by this algae has managed to eradicate it. It is vital therefore, that we step up our efforts to stop its spread. If we insist all boaties and fishermen wash their gear thoroughly, we are increasing awareness of the term "knowingly spread" and this applies a great deal more pressure on people to take responsible action."

ENDS

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