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Stronger Measures Essential To Stop Didymo

Stronger Measures Essential to Stop Didymo

Precis: The 'NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers (Inc)' are very concerned at what they consider very 'inadequate Biosecurity' measures both at international ports of entry and at domestic airports and ferry terminals (Cook Strait). Controls are needed to minimise the movement of DIDYMO through New Zealand - AND to stop other potentially damaging pest incursions that are waiting to cross our borders .

'Stronger more stringent and effective measures must be taken to keep Didymo out of the North Island' says a national trout fishing advocacy.

The comments by 'New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers' President Ian Rodger of Auckland, were in response to the seeming lack of action following the recent well publicised 'wake-up call' where dead didymo cells were found in key water catchments in the North Island. (Since found to be due to contaminated testing equipment - a major blunder.)

Now the Federation is calling for a much more pro-active approach by government.

"A clear government policy that effectively 'ring fences' the North Island is needed as soon as possible," said Rodger.

The Federation has been urging greater public signage and Biosecurity presence at the interisland ferry terminals with closer surveillance of potential carriers crossing Cook Strait.

"While we have been heartened by action recently taken by MZF/BNZ (Biosecurity) in this direction, we still consider it inadequate. Anglers have tended to be blamed for the spread of didymo. We fully accept that as 'freshwater anglers' we must act responsibly, however would ask that other freshwater recreationalists do likewise. The fact is that there are many other potential didymo carriers from kayaks, to trailer boats, trampers and four wheel drive vehicles," he said "and particularly now at holiday time".

Ian Rodger said it was disturbing to hear a government official say they were on "full alert" following the discovery of the cells in the North Island.

"It needed full alert, full surveillance, right from the start," he said.

Stronger measures must be introduced to protect New Zealand's very valuable freshwater resource. (Not just for the fishery but for other recreational, agricultural and industrial users.)

"Didymo is the current concern and urgent action must be taken to contain it - AND other unwanted 'pest incursions' that will continue to plague New Zealand's land and water. Regretfully under present MAF/BNZ policies we do not have the necessary stringent protection mechanisms in place"

The Federation (together with the 'Advocates for the Tongariro River') proposes five new policy measures:-

Ring Fencing the North Island by extending the amendment to the Import Health Standards announced by Biosecurity NZ in September.

Ring-fencing the Taupo Catchment Fishery;

Introducing a Clean Gear Licence for ALL freshwater anglers (as in parts of Southland) AND for ALL vehicles, boats, equipment and kayaks using same;

Imposing restrictions on the use and importation of felt soled boots;

Launching a NZ wide high profile awareness campaign that covers all present and future incursions. (In addition to the very successful 'CHECK-CLEAN-DRY' MAF/BNZ didymo campaign.)

"Putting a biosecurity barrier around the North Island as exists and which operates effectively at both sea and land borders in other parts of the world, is both urgent and essential" he said. "Further, a second layer of control needs to be put around the Taupo Catchment Fishery in line with the significance of this area for recreational and tourism angling - such tools being available within the 'Border Control measures' contained within the 'NZ Biosecurity Act."

Live Didymo cells are in effect 'aquatic hitchhikers'. The cells can survive for weeks in damp or wet fishing equipment, clothing and kayaks, boats and absorbent materials, such as felt soles, and in doing so can be spread over long distances to contaminate the next body of water.

"We need rigorous biosecurity checks and controls in order to prevent the movement of such pests across international borders - and while it was encouraging to see MAF/BNZ implementing some additional measures it is not enough, said Rodger.

"It is not just didymo we are talking about here. We must have an effective quarantine system that minimises the possibility of allowing other (even worse) unwanted organisms into New Zealand - and to minimise movement within the country", he said.

Given the out-of-control spread of Didymo throughout the South Island, best use must be made of the natural barrier (Cook Strait) to prevent a North Island invasion. While appreciating action recently taken here, it is still not enough.

More effective quarantine and surveillance at our international and national borders must be given high priority in the interests of all New Zealanders. ACTION MUST BE TAKEN NOW said Rodger.


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