Keeping Marine Pests out of Fiordland Update # 4

                         

18/10/2014

The Steering Group has been making good progress with the pathway plan initiative as noted in our previous updates. Update # 4 is one more step along the way - but it is an important step that has built on our earlier work so we felt it would be helpful to recap first before reporting on our September workshop. And remember, Updates # 1, 2 and 3 can be found on the Guardians’ website http://www.fmg.org.nz and Environment Southland’s website http://www.es.govt.nz/environment/pests/marine/marine-pest-pathways/

 

Keeping Marine Pests out of Fiordland

Update # 4

To recap

Update # 1  focused on the iconic nature of the Fiordland Marine Area, the privilege of working and playing in such a special place and the unacceptable risks marine pests present to the fiord environment.

 

                                                                                           

  An example of the values we are trying to protect                                              

   (Photo: Black Corral with Snake stars: J. Davies).

 

Update # 2  introduced the concept of a pathway approach to prevent pests from accessing Fiordland. Rather than reacting after a pest has arrived, the focus is on stopping them from getting into Fiordland in the first place. Understanding the way (the pathway) marine pests may be transported into an area is fundamental to this approach. A new tool was introduced into the Biosecurity Act in 2012 to help ‘manage’ pest pathways. Environment Southland decided to explore a Marine Pathway Management Plan for Fiordland, together with the Fiordland Marine Guardians, Ministry for Primary Industries and Department of Conservation. Representatives from these organisations formed a Steering Group that is being advised by others with specialist knowledge and expertise.

 

Update # 3  was devoted to cleaning standards for all types of vessels and gear that could provide a pathway for marine pests to access Fiordland. The cleaning methods are a proven means of eliminating all life stages of various pest species from vessel hulls, niche areas and gear. But the Steering Group is not only committed to advocating effective methods for vessel owners/operators to meet the clean vessel standards required for Fiordland but also those that are easy to apply and cost effective. This builds on the enormous effort made in recent years by all the organisations involved to inform and educate vessel owners about marine pests and how to keep their vessels clean.

 

 

           

With a Fiordland Marine Pathway Plan in place hopefully this will be a thing of the past.                    

   (Photo: A heavily fouled vessel hull: MPI).

 

 

Update # 4

There are many vessel owners/operators who understand the need to keep vessels and gear clean and are diligent in doing so. But there are some who do not maintain clean vessels and as a result they foster fouling and possible marine pest attachment. In 2010 Undaria was transported into Sunday Cove, in Breaksea Sound and almost five years later the intensive joint agency effort to eliminate it is still ongoing. Now that Undaria is well established in Bluff Harbour, Stewart Island and many areas of New Zealand’s coastline, ports and harbours there is a much greater risk of it being transported into Fiordland - something that is clearly shown by the results of vessel monitoring. Very recently the discovery of a colony of Mediterranean fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii) attached to the hull of a super yacht heading for Fiordland caused dismay and alarm. From all accounts this is a pest that must be kept out of Fiordland at all costs. So there is some urgency to ensure pests are not being transported into Fiordland.

In September, the Steering Group and advisers with tourist, commercial and recreational fishing knowledge and experience, spent two days considering ways to reinforce the clean vessel message and ensure vessels entering or residing in the Fiordland Marine Area are meeting the clean vessel standards.

We wanted a provision that would require minimum effort on the part of vessel owners/operators, involve no cost (to the applicant), be easily acquired, easily administered and be effective in the isolated Fiordland environment. These are all features to make it easy for vessel owners/operators to look after something as irreplaceable as the Fiordland marine environment.

 

 

The concept of a Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass was the result of our discussions.

How would it work?

Obtaining such a pass would be required before vessels enter the Fiordland Marine Area. Essentially it would consist of a statement from the vessel owner/operator that they have read and understood their responsibilities in relation to ensuring the vessel meets the ‘clean vessel, niche area and gear standards’.

Applying for a pass would be by way of a website that would automatically generate a pass once the information had been filled in and conditions agreed to. Advice about cleaning methods and facilities would also be available from the same website.

To assess the feasibility of this approach a number of different vessel behaviour patterns were considered. This exercise revealed the pass had the flexibility and potential for success.

To further test the viability of a Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass, input from vessel owners/operators will be necessary to ensure workable solutions for all situations.

 

The process from here

To draft a proposal for consideration by Environment Southland, the Steering Group must meet the Pathway Management Plan provisions defined in the Biosecurity Act, 1993. Given this is the first Pathway Management Plan proposal there are likely to be policy and implementation issues to resolve along the way. But we hope to deliver the proposal to Environment Southland by June/July 2015. If the Council decides to proceed with the draft plan it may carry out formal consultation. Once the Council requirements are met, the Plan can be “made”.

This might seem an unduly complicated process but is one that safeguards all involved. And of course the most important safeguard will apply to our treasured Fiordland Marine Area.

 

Change of contact:  We regret to report that Derek Richards is leaving Environment Southland. The great job he has done on marine biosecurity issues and as the Steering Group contact will be missed. Until a replacement is appointed Laurel Teirney will act as Steering Group contact.

 

 

We welcome your feedback and ideas - our Steering Group contact is now Laurel Teirney:

lteirney@ihug.co.nz