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Keep an eye out for foreign vessels in Great Barrier waters

Pest species put unique ecosystem at risk

Published: 3 December 2019

Great Barrier Island (GBI) residents are being asked to help in the fight to protect the island’s unique ecosystems from pest species that could be hitching a ride on foreign vessels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) wants locals who are aware of vessels arriving directly to the island without being cleared by MPI to contact them.

The island has an important and unique ecosystem, both above and below the water, which is vulnerable to the negative impacts of pests. Boats arriving from overseas destinations have the potential to introduce marine and terrestrial pest species from all over the world.

Harbour damaging pests 

These overseas vessels provide plenty of opportunities for pests to hitch a ride to New Zealand: food onboard can harbour damaging pests such as fruit flies, invasive ants and spiders like to hide in storage holds, and marine pests can be introduced as fouling on dirty hulls.

Typically, these risks are assessed and managed upon the vessel’s arrival to an approved port, where the MPI/Biosecurity NZ have officers who ensure that overseas yachts comply with biosecurity regulations, and manage any existing risks that are present upon arrival.

All vessels are required by law to arrive directly to an approved port from overseas, so boats that arrive directly to GBI are not only exposing the island to biosecurity risks but have likely committed an offence under the Biosecurity Act.

Auckland Council’s biosecurity team and Aotea / Great Barrier Local Board says the message is timely with summer attracting an increasing number of visitors to the island on land and sea.

Local board chair Izzy Fordham says community involvement is crucial in helping to protect the island’s precious biodiversity.

“Our marine ecosystems and native flora and fauna are under constant threat from pest plants and animals. A collective effort is needed.”

While MPI puts considerable resource into vessel intelligence, it is unfortunately not possible for MPI to have eyes on each kilometre of coastline at all times.

However, as part of New Zealand’s biosecurity team of 4.7 million, you can help ensure that biosecurity risks from overseas are managed appropriately, and keep exotic species from establishing at Great Barrier Island.

Report it 

People aware of any yachts or other vessels arriving directly to GBI from overseas without being cleared by MPI, please email vessels@mpi.govt.nz and copy in yachts@customs.govt.nz and itocops@customs.govt.nz as soon as possible.

This will allow MPI to intervene quickly and ensure any potential biosecurity risk is managed, to minimise the risk of pests establishing on land or in coastal waters around the island.

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