Boating and water activities
Protecting our seas, rivers and lakes from pests and diseases
We swim and surf in the moana (ocean). We paddle and fish on our awa (rivers). We sail and ski on our roto (lakes). As Kiwis, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to water activities. Biosecurity protects our favourite waters by defending them from pests and diseases.
Freshwater and marine pests can ruin our enjoyment of water activities. They can also impact the kai we eat, our drinking water, our drains and our native species.
We should look after our lakes, rivers and oceans and the native species that live there.
Protect what you love. Protect our taonga. Protect our oceans and waterways.
How to play your part
Keeping our gear clean
Can help protect our precious coastlines, rivers and lakes from the spread of pests
Moving plants and animals can be dangerous
Intentional or unintentional, it may spread pests and diseases
Keeping a clean boat for marine biosecurity
Protecting our coastlines by keeping hitchhiking pests off our boats
With thousands of kilometres of coastline, we always have a stunning beach or bay not too far away.
Marine pests can impact our enjoyment of the coast. From walking on the tātahi (beach), swimming, surfing and diving, to boating into an untouched bay. Marine pests are non-native species that can change the spots we love.
They can set up ugly and smelly populations in our favourite spots.
They can harm our unique native species by crowding out. They can also damage our boats and affect our fishing.
We can help stop the spread of these established marine pests. We can also be aware of pests we are trying to keep out of New Zealand. We protect our oceans to keep our favourite spots the way we like them.
Freshwater pests could squeeze the life out of our precious rivers and lakes. All it takes is a fragment of weed, a droplet of water, or a single fish egg.
Pests can affect our fishing and kōura catches, the kai we eat, the water we drink. These pests can ruin our enjoyment of activities around rivers and lakes. They could turn clear water murky and smelly, or get tangled in our gear. They may threaten our freshwater ecosystems by out-competing native species.
Unfortunately, some freshwater pests are already in some of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and streams. Pests can hitch a ride on our boat, our gear and even our pets to spread to unaffected waterways. But we can help to stop them spreading.
We can help protect our favourite waterways by making sure we check, clean, and dry, especially when we move between waterways.
Getting to know biosecurity in your region
Every region in Aotearoa has its own unique and special environment. Wherever you call home, you can protect it by being aware of the biosecurity risks around you. We all have a part to play.
Find out more about biosecurity controls, programmes and local groups you can support in your area.
Identify and report potential pests
If we all keep an eye and ear out for any unusual aquatic life, we can stop pests before they have a chance to spread.
If you think you've found something unusual:
- Take a photo (or sample if appropriate)
- Take a note of its location
- And contact the Biosecurity New Zealand pest and diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
Kiwis report about 10,000 suspected pests and diseases to the Ministry for Primary Industries every year.
Check out the resources to help identify and learn more about pests below.
Keeping equipment and clothing clean
Pests can spread into new rivers, lakes and coastal areas on water sport equipment and wet suits.
We prevent pests from spreading by cleaning our equipment and clothing – especially when we move between waters. We can Check, Clean, Dry our gear whenever we move between freshwater lakes and rivers. Freshwater pests could squeeze the life out of our rivers and lakes. Our favourite spots could could get ugly.
Check, clean, dry can be a breeze by having things like dishwashing liquid, a spray bottle and a large sturdy plastic bag or bucket handy.
If our equipment has been in sea water, we need to:
- remove and dispose of any attached dead organisms
- rinse or flush our equipment with fresh water
- and dry our equipment if possible.
Moving aquatic plants and animals can be a risk
Whether intentional or unintentional (such as on dirty equipment) moving plants or animals between different waters can spread pests and diseases. Moving aquatic plants and animals may need permits. Find out more about getting authorisation - DOC website.
If we're fishing, we don't take bait between different areas. We also dispose of any seafood waste, offal and bait in a land-based rubbish bin.
Some pests can survive a long time out of water, so we need to avoid dumping waste where it might end up back in the water.
Cleaning our boats between waterways
Keeping our boats and trailers clean can help stop the spread of pests as we move from place to place.
Like the rest of our gear, we can use the check, clean, dry method to clean our boats whenever we move between freshwater lakes, rivers and streams.
Keeping our boats clean can also save us money and help our boats last longer.
We're unable to see all pests, so it's important that we check, clean, drain and dry our boats every time we move between waterways.
The Check, Clean, Dry method - Biosecurity NZ
Detailed information to prevent the spread of freshwater pests and diseases
Cleaning boats: Removing pests and water plants
Detailed instructions on how to clean your boat
Keeping a clean boat for marine biosecurity
We can help protect the coastlines we love from pests by making sure that the submerged surfaces of our boats remain clean.
Marine pests spread easily by hitching a ride on the bottom of our vessels and dropping off at a new spot.
We are all responsible for making sure that we're not spreading marine pests. We can do that by keeping our boats clean and well antifouled.
It can be difficult to tell by just looking whether a boat is a biosecurity risk or not. So it's best if we make sure our boat hull never carries more than a slime layer. We should also make sure our boat is cleaned regularly out of water and has a decent coating of antifouling paint.
Explore the links and resources below for marine biosecurity tips.
Video: How to clean your boat - Biosecurity New Zealand
Watch a video on how to clean your boat out of water and reapply antifouling paint.
Protecting Fiordland's precious marine environment
Fiordland is a unique corner of New Zealand, surrounded by untouched native bush. It's a popular backdrop for the water activities we love. Fiordland is also home to a rich marine ecosystem.
If we're visiting Fiordland, there are some things we may need to do to protect this beautiful taonga, such as:
- getting a clean vessel pass
- cleaning all our diving and fishing gear
- and having an anchoring plan.
News and stories
Getting closer to solutions for marine structures
The battle against marine pests will rapidly get easier if we can prevent them from growing on artificial structures like marina pontoons, wharf piles and seawalls. The Marine Biosecurity Toolbox has some promising leads.
A unique result for Friends of Waiwhetū Stream
Against the odds neighbourhood volunteers rehabilitate their local stream.
Seashore Monitoring for Marine Pests – A Citizen Science Approach
Marine Metre Squared (Mm2) is a nationwide citizen science project that encourages the public to gather information about biodiversity, distribution and abundance of intertidal species and in doing so, ask further questions about the state of the coastal