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Research Funding Available In The Battle Against Marine Pests

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investing $650,000 to help stamp out invasive marine pests and help the aquaculture industry.

Pest management and eradication have proven difficult, in particular at ports and marinas.

The MPI funding is earmarked for research to improve marine pest management. It will be allocated over the next four years.

Managing incursions of non-indigenous species in marine environments has most commonly been done by hand by divers. This can be effective, but expensive. Diving has limitations, among them depth and dive duration, and it is highly dependent on water and weather conditions.

MPI project lead Tim Riding says the research will complement traditional diver-based approaches, but the aim is to develop more effective and affordable methods.

"The lack of effective, efficient and practical marine pest treatments has always limited how we deal with marine pests," Riding says.

He is expecting the research will help immensely when responding to incursions like the current invasive algae Caulerpa brachypus on Great Barrier Island.

Another focus of the research will be finding treatments to help shellfish farms deal with hitchhiker pests, which board vessels in foreign waters. These are challenging to deal with, because attacking pests attached to shellfish can damage the shellfish.

Aquaculture New Zealand will be closely involved with this research.

Technical director Dave Taylor says biosecurity is vital for the industry.

Taylor says the aquaculture industry will work closely with researchers and shellfish farmers to develop effective pest control, which can be implemented at scale on farms.

Researchers wanting to get involved can put in a proposal through the government tender service. Applications close on 10 February 2022. MPI hopes to appoint a research provider to start the work by March.

* The literature review outlining the current knowledge of marine biosecurity treatment options is also available from the MPI website

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