The isolated Fiordland marine environment embodies an array of values so exceptional that vessels of all types and sizes from the local area, further afield and overseas are attracted there. Any of these visiting vessels, be they superyachts or trailer boats, may present a risk to the environment if they are harbouring marine pests and carrying them into the Fiordland Marine Area (FMA). Marine pests can be transported on vessel hulls, in niche areas (recesses around rudders, propellers, stavilsers and bording platforms), on gear (anchors, ropes, mooring lines, fishing gear, diving gear, tenders and research equipment) and in residual seawater remaining in vessel compartments, all of which constitute a pest pathway into the Fiordland marine environment. In 2010 a joint-agency response was initiated when a single speciman of the invasive seaweed (Undaria pinnatifida) was discovered in Sunday Cove, Breaksea Sound. Five years later and with more than $600 000 spent, intensive efforts are still taking place to eliminate it from the site. Very recently a Mediteranean fanworm (Sabella spallenzanii) was found on the hull of a vessel heading to Fiordland. There are many species of marine pests that we are concerned about because their establishment in the fiords poses a real risk to the marine communities that include iconic species such as black corals and the productive and highly valued fisheries supported by these communities. It is indeed sobering to realise how easily pests may be transported into Fiordland when their effect may threaten the very values for which the area is renowned.
The concept of a pathway approach is to prevent pests from reaching Fiordland in the first place rather than responding after a pest has arrived. Such prevention is very straightforward - vessel owners/operators need to keep their hulls, niche areas, gear and residual seawater areas clean and treated. Given what is at stake, this is very little to ask.
Proposed clean vessel standards
How clean these pest-susceptable areas need to be has been defined with the help of expert advice and the following standards have been proposed.
1. The Clean Vessel Standard applies to hulls and associated niche areas such as recesses around rudders, propellers, stabilisers, boarding platforms and, on larger vessels, zinc blocks and sea chests (water intake/outlets).
Standard: No more than a slime layer and goose barnacles
This standard is internationally recognised as one that will minimise the risk of marine pest attachment. It is also consistent with the Craft Risk Management Standard adopted for long stay vessels entering New Zealand and those entering at places such as Milford Sound not classified by MPI as Places of First Arrival.
2. The Clean Gear Standard applies to anchors, ropes, mooring lines, floats, fishing gear (lines and pots), diving gear, tenders and research equipment.
Standard: Visibly clean, free of fouling and sediment and preferably dry
3. The Clean Residual Seawater Standard applies to areas that do not drain completely and may be left with a few litres of seawater while in port. Such residual seawater could become contaminated with spores and other infestations. Live wells and seawater toilet heads are examples that fall into this category.
Standard: Residual seawater has been treated and/or is visibly clean and free of sediment.
Of course responsible vessel owners/operators routinely maintain their vessels at these standards but vessel owners who don’t are fostering biofouling on their vessel providing an ideal habitat for the settlement of pest species. Given the nature of the Fiordland marine environment all vessel owner/operators need to be encouraged to adopt the clean vessel standards.
A Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass
It would be ideal if all vessel owners/operators entering or residing in the FMA adopted the clean vessel standards voluntarily. But given the real risk of marine pests being delivered into the FMA the concept of a Clean Vessel Pass has been developed to draw attention to the issue and increase compliance with the clean vessel standards.
We sought 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.
The proposed Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass embodies all these features. Accordingly we are proposing that vessel operators/owners entering or residing in the FMA acquire a Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass. To do so the applicant will only have to declare he/she has read and understands the clean vessel standards and will meet the standards on every entry into the FMA.
Proposed features of the Pass
1. The Pass will be specific to a vessel and is to be carried on that vessel at all times.
Note: Charter vessel owner/operators will be responsible for the Pass and for advising clients about the clean gear standards for private gear, such as diving and fishing gear.
Note: Vessel owners/operators are also responsible for craft associated with their vessel such as tenders and kayaks. These will also need to meet the clean vessel and gear standards.
2. Applications for a Pass can be made by way of a website, e-mail, fax or letter.
Note: The applicant will be guided through a simple application process. As part of this process a user-friendly guide about vessel cleaning methods, anti fouling, local cleaning facilities and hull inspections will be attached. This has been compiled for all moored and trailer vessels.
3. A Pass will be issued after the applicant has provided all required information (that may be subject to a check), and declared that he/she understands the standards and that the vessel will meet the clean vessel, gear and residual seawater standards on each entry into the FMA.
4. The duration of a Pass will be one year. That means a vessel may re-enter the FMA over the course of the year without applying for a new Pass but the vessel must meet the Clean Vessel Pass requirements on every re-entry. An annual pass is considered appropriate for most situations (whether one-off trips or frequent trips).
5. Vessel owners/operators will be reminded when the Pass needs to be renewed.
Situations where the Pass may be varied or waived
1. Those vessels remaining in the FMA for extended periods can become fouled and the vessel may no longer meet the clean vessel standards. Given that fouling is from local conditions rather than from locations where marine pests are present, this situation could be managed by providing for a lower clean vessel standard. These few vessel owners would need to self identify by making an application through the Pass system and provide proof that they fulfil the conditions required.
2. Emergency provisions will be available for vessels that experience adverse weather, vessel malfunctions or health emergencies at sea outside the FMA. For instance, in such situations the requirement for a Fiordland Clean Vessel Pass could be waived to provide shelter for a specific period within defined areas of some fiords.
Environment Southland has statutory responsibility for implementing and administering the Fiordland Pathway Management Plan. Accordingly, tasks such as issuing Clean Vessel Passes, recording the data, and managing and analysing the database for trends will be conducted by them. So too will the provision of information, monitoring and compliance functions. But the Fiordland Marine Guardians, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Depatment of Conservation (DOC) are partners in this initiative so all groups will take part in the range of required functions.
Where to from here
The concept and provisions we consider will keep marine pests out of the Fiordland Marine Area have been detailed in this update. Your feedback together with ongoing informal dialogue will be integrated into the Proposal for a Fiordland Pathway Management Plan that we (the Guardians, ES, MPI and DOC) plan to submit to Environment Southland later this year. Accordingly, your views about the proposed provisions and also other improvements to any aspect of this initiative are really important at this time.
Let us know what you think - we welcome views and ideas that will increase the effectiveness of keeping pests out of Fiordland.
Our Steering Group contact is now Shaun Cunningham