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Keeping a close eye on harbour life

Sunday, 3 May 2015 9:00 a.m.

Seagrass, sediment, cockles, mussels and other sea life will give Bay of Plenty Regional Council coastal scientists some answers soon about whether there will be any further effects on the environment of last week’s oil spill in Tauranga Harbour.

The University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Group staff, Regional Council-funded Coastal Chair Dr Chris Battershill, marine ecologist Phil Ross and coastal ecosystem research programme Manaaki Taha Moana are providing advice and support to assist with the sampling.

Regional Council Environmental Scientist Robert Win has been out gathering samples of sea life around the worst affected areas of Maungatapu, Bridge Marina and Motuopuhi (Rat) Island to test for any PAH contamination. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, found in the heavy fuel oil which spilled on Monday, stay in the environment for a long time and can contaminate seafood.

“We’ve been taking samples, concentrating on kaimoana as these filter feed and if there’s oil in the environment they are able to pick it up,” Mr Win said. The samples have to be carefully taken with strict quality controls, as they will be used in the formal investigation into the spill. Samples will then take two or three weeks to be tested at Hills Laboratories.

Baskets of mussels has been placed near the spill site and will be left there for two weeks before being tested against a basket of control mussels which have not been exposed to the spill. They will then be left for four weeks before being re-tested.

Mr Win said there would be ongoing monitoring of all edible species in the harbour to check for contamination.

“A good sign was seeing plenty of wading birds out there fishing this week, as Motuopuhi is an important bird roosting area.”

2015 04 28 Oil on foreshore at Motuopuhi Island Tauranga Harbour near Turret Rd morning