A Precautionary Move
In a proactive effort to mitigate the potential spread of the invasive freshwater gold clam, Lake Ōkataina in the Bay of Plenty is set to undergo temporary biosecurity measures. Consequently, these measures will include a month-long closure, running from October 1st to October 31st, effectively impacting boating and fishing activities. This protective initiative will be enforced through a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) under the Biosecurity Act.
Responding to Local Concerns
Addressing Ngāti Tarāwhai’s Request
While the freshwater gold clam hasn’t extended beyond a 99-kilometer stretch of the Waikato River, Ngāti Tarāwhai’s request prompted the decision to enact the temporary CAN. Stuart Anderson, deputy director-general of Biosecurity New Zealand, is currently exploring alternative measures like boat cleaning stations to address the potential biosecurity threat.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Backs CAN Implementation
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is firmly backing the move to establish a Controlled Area Notice, emphasizing its importance in reducing the risk of a biosecurity incursion in the region. Stuart Anderson notes,
“Lake Ōkataina holds special cultural significance to Ngāti Tarāwhai because it contains a drowned pa site and other submerged Māori archaeological features. It is also a popular trout fishing lake and its popularity with fishers, many who travel from Waikato, makes it vulnerable.
It is also a lake of high ecological value, and these features are recognized by certain restrictions already placed on some lake uses.”
A Balanced Approach
Preserving the Natural Beauty
Biosecurity New Zealand is taking a cautious and balanced approach in its efforts to manage the freshwater gold clam, aiming to allow people to continue enjoying the region’s lakes and rivers while safeguarding them from this invasive shellfish.
Ensuring Clam-Free Waters
Installing Cleaning Stations
During the temporary closure period, we will install boat cleaning facilities to ensure boats entering the lake remain free of freshwater gold clams. We also plan to set up similar cleaning stations in Waikato to assist river and lake users in meeting Check Clean Dry requirements. The first station should become operational in approximately three weeks at Lake Karāpiro, and we are developing plans to establish cleaning stations at all major boat ramps.
A Plea for Preservation
Sacrificing for Future Generations
Stuart Anderson acknowledges the eagerness of people to enjoy Lake Ōkataina at the start of the trout fishing season. However, he urges patience and cooperation during this temporary closure, emphasizing that this small sacrifice this month will go a long way toward preserving the lake for generations to come. Once the necessary facilities are in place to ensure clam-free boats, the lake will be reopened for the remainder of the season.
Restrictions in Place
CAN Regulations Explained
The Controlled Area Notice prohibits the movement of boats and other watercraft, as well as fishing equipment, including rods, waders, and nets, into the lake. Nevertheless, the lake will remain accessible for other activities such as lakeside walks, picnics, and swimming. Individuals with a genuine need to use boats in the lake during this period can apply for a special permit.
Uniting for Freshwater Conservation
Stuart Anderson concludes,
“We continue to work with all parties to protect our freshwater environment from this clam. Extensive surveillance of the Waikato River and its wider catchment has been conducted, with no positive results thus far.
We are also planning to carry out surveillance at approximately 80 additional sites in collaboration with regional councils. Trials to determine the feasibility of suppressing the clam population in the Waikato River are slated to commence by November.”
As the temporary biosecurity measures take effect, the community stands united, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to safeguarding the ecological and cultural heritage of Lake Ōkataina for both present and future generations.