Today marks the five-year anniversary of the discovery of didymo in New Zealand. On 15 October 2004 National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) scientist Cathy Kilroy first noticed a “weird, brown, fungusy stuff” in the Lower Waiau River in Southland. Tests confirmed the discovery as didymo and subsequently the way we spend time in and around freshwater changed.
Even as “Check, Clean, Dry” started to become a way of life for people working and recreating in rivers and lakes, only months later the devastating effects of didymo became apparent when the Mararoa River, a tributary of the Waiau, became home to some of the most prolific growths of didymo in the world.
Despite this, “Check, Clean, Dry” vigilance has resulted in many of Southland’s waterways remaining didymo-free and the majority of Fiordland National Park remains completely free of didymo. Fish and Game ranger Graeme Peek said Southlanders should be proud of their leading role in helping protect this area of high biodiversity.
“We have been really impressed with the way anglers have complied with the Clean Gear Certificates over the last five years and we hope their efforts continue this year,” said Mr Peek.
While angling does carry a high risk of spreading didymo it’s important to remember other activities also carry a risk. Trampers, hunters, boaties, everyone travelling into Fiordland needs to be aware of their potential to spread didymo and take the appropriate steps necessary to prevent this happening, Fish and Game will continue to maintain a presence around Fiordland over the coming summer months promoting this message,” said Mr Peek.
Conservation ranger Martin Genet will also be back for another summer promoting the “Check, Clean, Dry” message.
“We’ll be reinforcing the importance of not taking the lake up river. Hopefully our “Check, Clean, Dry” message will remind everyone using the rivers and lakes to avoid transferring potentially didymo infected water from the edges of the large Eastern lakes like Te Anau and Manapouri up into their didymo-free tributaries,” said Mr Genet.
As with the last several years the same didymo controls will be in place for Fiordland again this year.Mr Genet said if anyone was unsure about the didymo controls and how they apply to them they should contact either the Department of Conservation or Fish and Game.