The Mediterranean fanworm (Sabella spallanznii) is considered a serious marine pest in Northland waters. Photo/ Included
A boat group in the Bay of Islands says local boat owners are getting a bad deal over an alleged “counterproductive” marine pest control policy.
Northland Mooring Owners and Ratepayers is a community group that advocates for the rights and interests of local boat owners.
The group reached out to Northland Age to raise a number of concerns about Northland Regional Council’s management of marine pests in the region, most notably the introduction of the Marine Pathway Management Plan (MPMP) in 2017.
The MPMP is part of the Northland Regional Pest and Marine Pathway
Management plan which, according to the NRC, outlines the framework to “efficiently and effectively manage or eradicate specified organisms and/or pathways of marine pests in Northland”.
NMO & RP spokesman Klaus Kurz said that despite the boat owners’ best efforts, NRC’s alleged removal of nearly all lattice masts in Northland has resulted in a shortage of retractable masts, masts and tide fences, all of which are needed to comply with MPMP regulations -Rules – especially in remote areas.
He said the lack of proper facilities was and will continue to be a major reason for non-compliance for a large number of boat owners in the area.
“For years there have been serious concerns about the lack of facilities that we believe make it impossible to enforce compliance with MPMP rules,” Kurz said.
“For example, it is counterproductive to require the movement of an identified, non-compliant, soiled boat from one designated area with no salvage facilities to another with these facilities.
“Following the dismantling of the only slipway for larger boats in Opua, there are now also major difficulties in preventing the spread of marine pests, as such ships have to leave the Bay of Islands with soiled hulls to dock at dockyards in Whangarei.”
Northland has a number of invasive marine pests spread across the region, according to New Zealand’s Cawthron Institute.
These include Mediterranean fanworm (Sabella spallanznii), Asian kelp (Undaria pinnatifida), Pyura sea squirt (Pyura praepetualis/doppelgangera), Japanese mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria), Australian droplet mantle (Eudistoma elongatum), and Asian paddle crab ( Charybdis japonica).
The number and prevalence of each of these pests varies across Northland, the institute said, with some being widespread while others are present only in delineated areas.
Sabella was of particular concern in Northland, which Biosecurity New Zealand said threatened Northland’s economy, environment, social and cultural values.
The serious marine pest typically attaches to man-made structures (the species’ main route of dispersal) and can also colonize concrete pontoons, anchor blocks, hard rock surfaces, shell ropes and some types of discarded rubbish.
How many Sabella infest a ship’s hull depends on the amount of biofouling already on the ship, how effective the ship’s hull antifouling regime is, and where and for how long the ship is moored or moored (i.e. the density of Sabella in the environment). .
According to Kurz, NRC has repeatedly claimed to have found Sabella in the Bay of Islands, but the public has not seen an assessment of how big the problem is in local waters.
He also felt it was unfair that only Northland boat owners were being asked to pay for antifouling their boats, while visiting boats from heavily infected areas such as Whangārei Harbour, Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbor allegedly did not charge a fee .
“We believe NRC should reopen these facilities and they need to be either free/minimum fee or council funded,” Kurz said.
“Their management might require an online net booking system, similar to the DOC campground system.
“Finally, the Mediterranean fanworm (Sabella) has no particular habitat requirements and our shallow coastal waters are ideal for its existence, so in terms of the striking morphology it can be argued that they are very difficult to find given the low visibility in our tidal waters .”
A spokesman for Northland Regional Council said council staff had been working for the past two years on a collaborative project with three other northern regions, including Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, MPI and DoC, to come up with a proposed draft clean rump plan to develop.
NRC said the national plan is expected to be available for public consultation later this year and would mean uniform rules would apply across the tip of the North Island.
NRC dismissed Kurz’s claims that the council removed several grilles, saying the council only removed one because it didn’t agree.
An NRC spokesman said some other networks in Northland had ceased operations because their owners/operators chose not to obtain the necessary resource permit.
“The removal of the grille in question followed extensive discussions with local boat owners and a number of boating clubs, who were given the opportunity to seek approval for legalization resources,” the spokesman said.
“No one wanted to get the required resource commitment and mitigate the impact of the mesh, so it was removed.”
NRC stated that there are numerous boat maintenance facilities in the Bay of Islands where shipowners can perform all the necessary maintenance to comply with the MPMP.
The NRC spokesman said to ensure all ships are able to comply with the Northland Regional Pest and Marine Pathway Plan, the rules allowed ships to go from one designated location to another to retrieve them.
“The release of species from the hulls of these vessels will be reduced by requiring retrievals to be completed within 24 hours of arrival at the new designated location,” they said.
“It should also be noted that ships are only non-compliant if pollution exceeds the level allowed in the plan and they are moving between designated areas for purposes other than cleaning.
“A polluted vessel will not be identified as non-compliant when operating in a specific area unless it harbors a marine pest listed in the Northland Regional Pest and Marine Pathway Plan.”
While available BOI facilities covered much of the fleet, NRC acknowledged that some larger ships had to travel, with rules created to allow shipowners to comply while minimizing the risk of spreading marine pests.
“NRC’s regional plan provides the ability for shipowners to service their own hulls by allowing in-water cleaning in designated areas,” the spokesman said.
“Cleaning in the water allows owners to remove slime, barnacles and small amounts of localized biofouling with a soft cloth that will not erode the antifouling paints.”
For more information on marine pests in New Zealand waters, visit marinebiosecurity.org.nz/site.