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New marine pests under the spotlight

New marine pests under the spotlight

A major marine survey and monitoring programme designed to detect new exotic species before they become established in New Zealand waters kicks off in Northland today.

New Zealand is the first country in the world to develop a national programme of surveillance for unwanted marine species.

Scientists from the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) will be collecting samples in the Whangarei Marina between 13 and 20 November as part of a nationwide survey of exotic marine species in New Zealand’s main shipping ports and international marinas.

The programme, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Fisheries, will involve collecting and identifying marine organisms found in artificial and natural habitats in the marina, and sampling marine organisms growing on the hulls of boats that have arrived from overseas.

A more targeted surveillance programme will also be carried out for seven species identified by the Ministry as posing significant threats to New Zealand’s native marine environments, including the invasive green alga Caulerpa taxifolia.

NIWA scientist and survey project leader Graeme Inglis says the research team will try not to cause any inconvenience to the operations of the marina and its customers, and will clearly mark the areas they work in.

“We’ll occasionally need to dive near moored vessels, so we’re asking people to please keep a look out for divers before running their engine or moving their boat.”

Dr Inglis says a blue and white dive flag flown from a tender vessel or pontoon will mark the position of divers in the water.

“ We’ve surveyed seven ports so far – Tauranga, New Plymouth, Wellington, Picton, Nelson, Lyttelton, and Timaru – and more surveys are planned this summer for the ports of Whangarei, Auckland, Gisborne, Napier, Dunedin, and Bluff, and in boat marinas in Opua and Auckland where international yachts arrive.”

“The success of this programme depends on the cooperation and assistance of the boating community and port operators, who can play an active role in alerting authorities to the presence of new or unusual species.”

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