Invasive seawed poses serious threat to seabed in Aotea

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Legal controls are being placed on parts of Aotea, Great Barrier Island, in a bid to contain an invasive seaweed.

Caulerpa Brachypus, normally found in the North Pacific, has been spotted in Blind Bay and Tryphena harbour, and is known to spread rapidly, creating dense mats.

Ngāti Rehua iwi representative Jeff Cleave says the origins of the seaweed are from as far away as Japan and says if it is not removed, it will destroy kai Moana and extinguish their customary fishing rights.

“The issue that we have is the transportation in and out of that area, via vessel movement, and the ability of this organism to create a mat that is equivalent to the size of a football paddock that will smother and destroy our kaimoana."   

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it will issue legal controls on Monday, known as a controlled area notice, which will make it illegal to take seafood from Blind Bay or Tryphena Harbour. Anchoring in the two areas will also be banned without a permit.

The mana whenua governance group on Aotea is supporting a dual response, by imposing a rāhui over the area.

“Everything we are doing here is absolutely about returning the mauri of our papa moana (ocean floor),"Cleave says.