Underwater biosecurity work

Hazardous and murky conditions in our ports and marinas can make it challenging for divers to carry out important biosecurity inspections for introduced species.

NIWA scientists are pioneering the use of underwater technology to improve surveillance and are working with an innovative local company to refine the equipment used.

NIWA is working with local technology company Boxfish to customise its underwater remote operated vehicle (ROV) and 360˚ camera to enhance marine biosecurity surveillance.

NIWA is contracted by MPI to check the country’s high-risk locations (where there are high volumes of international vessel arrivals) for marine pest incursions.

Marine Biosecurity Programme Lead Graeme Inglis says these locations typically have low visibility and, with the large numbers of craft movements and occasional presence of large predators such as leopard seals, sea lions and sharks, the waters can present dangers to divers.

“The presence of the leopard seal Owha in Westhaven Marina prompted us to look at ways that we could do the surveys in Waitemata Harbour without putting our divers at risk. Our divers also regularly survey ports and marinas in Dunedin and Bluff harbours where large sea lions and sharks are occasionally observed,” Graeme says.

“The technology means thorough checks can be made for pests by reviewing footage beamed back from the ROV’s cameras.”

While the use of ROV’s is generally becoming more common, Graeme says NIWA is testing ways to optimise their use for biosecurity surveillance and compliance with video analysis backed up by good survey design, identification of specimens found and advice on appropriate responses to any detections.

Check out the ROV and its work.


Programme Leader – Marine Biosecurity