Sometimes it’s easy for those of us who work in marine biosecurity to forget that for most of our fellow Kiwis, spotting an invasive marine pest isn’t so simple. Most of us know a fantail when we see it… a fanworm, not so much.
Which is why it’s so important to take every opportunity to upskill and educate those around us about the marine pests that lurk, unwanted, below the surface.
“The more sets of eyes able to recognise things that don’t belong in our waters the better”, says Northland Regional Council Biosecurity Officer Aless Smith.
Finding the eyes to train of course is the big job and this summer Aless and her team achieved that by joining forces with Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) on some of their snorkel days around Northland. EMR is a national programme that aims to educate people about the importance of our marine environment by experiencing it up close and personal. NRC is one of multiple funders which help support the mahi of EMR in Northland.
“We sponsored four snorkel days this summer and they gave us a great opportunity to get out there and talk to people and actually show them what a marine pest was, and how to spot them. If people can see things up close it’s so effective”, Aless says.
Aless and her team set up a display at the EMR snorkel days and the attendees, mainly children, were invited to come and check out the displays of pickled pests and pictures.
“The kind of pests we had on display all look pretty alien and interesting to most people, especially kids so it draws them in. Most of the kids we talked to had no idea at all about marine pests, how they moved around or the damage they can cause”, Aless says.
The days were held at Long Bay/Oneroa and Maunganui as well as two at the Reotahi Marine Reserve in Whangarei Heads.
“It was such a great partnership teaming up with EMR. The people who came to take part all did so because they valued the marine environment and so they’re motivated to want to try and do all they can to protect it”, Aless says.
All up, Aless says they connected with more than 230 participants who went away with new knowledge to share about marine pests and there’s a hope that NRC will once again support these great community day opportunities in the future.