Biosecurity news

Scientists are looking into bilge water as part of a new research project. Pic: Alison Kelson
17 March 2015

A bilge water first

Cawthron and NIWA scientists are conducting New Zealand's first investigation into bilge pump water from boats to find out if it moves marine pests around the country.

Led by Cawthron's biosecurity team, the research project focuses on biofouling pests that attach to structures and boat hulls.

As part of the project, Cawthron intern and University of Birmingham environmental science student Rebecca Stafford-Smith spent the summer hitching rides with boaties heading out of Port Nelson so she could test their bilge water and determine whether it poses a biosecurity risk.

Ports are often a hub of invasive species and there are species living in Nelson that are not present anywhere else in New Zealand.

Cawthron Institute marine ecologist, Dr Lauren Fletcher, says it's important that samples are taken from a variety of boats including yachts, power boats and larger vessels.

"We want to go out and sample the bilge pump while they use it."

The water samples are sieved and preserved in ethanol before they're examined under a microscope, while genetic probes will be used to gather sensitive data.

The research is ongoing until May. If you'd like to participate, please phone Lauren on 03 548 2319, extension 350, or email She says boaties shouldn't worry about the quality of their bilge water, as the data collected would record the boat type and size, but otherwise it would be anonymous.

Meanwhile, if you see Rebecca down at the Nelson marina or boat ramp, feel free to say 'Hi', and find out how the research is progressing.