Check, Clean, Dry

MPI is working to slow the spread of didymo and other freshwater pests.


Clean all gear when moving between waterways

Freshwater pests, including didymo, could squeeze the life out of our country’s most precious rivers and lakes. They can be spread by a single drop of water or plant fragment. You can help to protect your favourite waterways if you always check, clean then dry any equipment that comes into contact with the water, between every waterway, every time.

If you are moving between waterways, you must clean all your gear using the 'Check, Clean, Dry' method.

MPI has produced a video to help explain the method and what you should do.

MAF Didymo Programme Manager John Sanson and another man named Lance are at a lake, preparing to tow a boat behind a truck.

John: New Zealand has some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the world, and we need your help to keep them that way.

Lance: One way that freshwater pests can be transferred between waterways is on recreational items that you use in the water - everything from boats to boots. And once these pests are in the water they can have a detrimental effect on wildlife in our rivers and lakes and the quality of the recreational experience our waterways offer.

John: Because it only takes one pair of tramping boots or a wet lifejacket to give a hitchhiking freshwater pest a ride to a new location where it can establish and cause damage.

[Card: Protect our fresh waterways from pests. Check, clean, dry - everywhere, everytime.]

Lance: Now John deals with pest species in our waterways, and he's seen some of the harm they can cause. Now we're talking about didymo or what some people call rock snot, aren't we?

John: Not just didymo, Lance. That's had a high profile in recent years, but there are plenty of other pests invading our fresh waterways.

[Underwater video of each pest is shown as John describes it.)

Lagarosiphon is a fast-growing freshwater weed. Grows up to 5 meters tall forming dense mats which block waterways and displace native plants. It's a major problem in hydroelectric dams, and can block irrigation and drainage systems.

Hornwort is found in still and flowing waters growing to depths of 16 meters in clear, deep lakes. New plants can form from each piece of the easily broken stems and its dense growth crowds out native species.

Hydrilla is an oxygen weed. They can grow up to 9 meters tall in still or slow flowing freshwater. It's spread mainly through stem fragments which are easily transported to other waterways by machinery, boats, trailers or nets. At present it's only found in 4 Hawke's Bay lakes, but once established is virtually impossible to get rid of, once again forming dense mats which clog waterways.

And of course as we mentioned at the start there's our most invasive algal - didymo. In bloom it forms thick brown mats that smother rocks, submerged plants and other materials. It can clog irrigation and hydroelectric systems, and frankly it's an unsightly mess that can seriously harm the enjoyment of activities such as fishing and boating.

Lance: Now that's just a few of the main pest species we're up against. But where they do establish, everyone has a part to play in ensuring they don't spread, spoiling our fishing, our swimming, our tramping - anything that people enjoy doing on the water.

But if someone's out and about traveling between different waterways how do they know which ones have pests and which haven't?

John: Sometimes it's impossible to tell just by looking. So the best idea is: simply to treat all water you've just left as if it does have pests, and all water you're entering as if it doesn't.

[Card: Treat all water you've just LEFT as if it DOES have Pests, and all water you're ENTERING as if it DOESN'T.]

Lance: A nice simple rule of thumb, and it's pretty simple to remember what to do after you've left the water too.

John: Yup. The Check, Clean, Dry programme was established when it was realised just how quickly didymo was spreading. And it's still the easiest and most effective way for anyone to stop didymo and other freshwater pests in their tracks.

[The Check, Clean, Dry - Everywhere, Everytime logo is seen over video of people jetboating, kayaking, fishing, and hiking.]

[John and Lance are seen looking over the boat and all its gear, including the anchor and chain, propeller, fishing rod, and tow hook-up, and throwing away plant material they find.]

Lance: Ok - so first up - before you leave a river or lake check anything that's been in the water - your boat, fishing gear, vehicle, boat trailer, boots - anything - and remove and leave any debris at the site - not back in the water or down the drain. That's not going to help.

But hold on. If we're talking about things too small to see, how can we check for those?

John: Well no we can't. We're just starting by removing anything we can see which could be a pest or harbor microscopic pests like didymo.

Lance: And are there any things that need particular attention?

John: The underside of vehicles and tyre wells are one, inside your boat or kayak, swimwear and towels, and water toys like lie-lows or inflatable dinghies.

[Lance and John look in a wheel well of the truck, feel around the inside of the boat, and shake out a towel.]

Lance: Alright, you've checked and you've removed any obvious visible debris from your equipment, your vehicle, your clothing.

Now you clean it, and you can do that here or at home. Just so long as it's clean before using another waterway. And we're not just talking a hose-down with water, are we?

[John brings a bucket, bottle of dish detergent, scrub brush, sponge, and measuring cup.]

John: No, that's right. Water by itself won't kill pests.

Cleaning must be done with a solution of water and 5% of a suitable cleaner like dishwashing liquid, salt, nappy cleaner or antiseptic hand cleaner. These are all items that can be found at your local supermarket or your home.

[John measures out 2 cups of the dish detergent.]

Now a 5% mixture is 500ml or 2 cups of the cleaner with water added to make 10 litres.

Lance: And how accurate do you need to be?

John: As long as the mixture is at least 5% cleaning solution that's all you need to worry about. You can't overdo it when it comes to the effectiveness of the solution.

Lance: So if in doubt, err on the side of caution.

John: That's correct. And we also need to think about the environment. So we recommend using biodegradable cleaning products wherever possible. And it's also important to make sure that your wastewater doesn't dump directly into a drain that leads to a waterway, or a waterway itself.

Lance: All items that have been in contact with the water have to be thoroughly cleaned, and there are several ways to kill didymo. So it's a matter of choosing the most practical treatment for your situation, as well as one that won't adversely affect your gear.

[Lance and John clean various equipment. A lifejacket is shown being submerged in a bucket of sudsy water. Lance sprays cleaner on the reel of a fishing rod and wipes it with a dry cloth. A coiled rope is submerged in a bucket of sudsy water. John sprays cleaner on the tire of the boat trailer and inside the wheel well. A sudsy scrub brush is used on the side of the boat. John scrubs the bottoms of waders with a brush before submerging them completely in a bucket of sudsy water.]

John: Hard surfaces can be sprayed and scrubbed with the solution, while absorbent items like ropes, mats, life jackets and boots should be soaked and scrubbed, all for at least one minute.

Lance: Cleaning the inside of vessels is almost more important than cleaning the outside. Don't neglect areas like carpets and mats, bilges and anchor ropes.

John: And just as importantly, you must clean boots, life jackets, water toys or other gear. And remember - anything that's been in the water must be cleaned.

Lance: Now you might think it's not practical to be carrying cleaning solution around with you if you're out, say, tramping and need to clean your boots. Obviously you're not going to have a hose and bucket with you.

John: Well no. But you could carry a plastic bag with sufficient cleaning solution already in it and simply add the required amount of water from the waterway to clean your boots in.

[A boot is submerged in a plastic zipper bag with soapy water. The bag is closed and swished around to cover and fill the boot with the solution.]

Lance: You'll have to leave any rinsing off until you enter the next waterway where the cleaning solution will wash off. Don't rinse your gear in the water where you've just left.

Now there will be times when cleaning just isn't practical. So the next important step is drying.

[John dries the inside of a kayak with a towel. Lance dries the reel of a fishing rod with a cloth. John runs his hands over the kayak, straps and paddles to make sure they're dry.]

John: Drying alone will kill didymo, but even slightly moist didymo can survive for months. So to ensure the didymo cells are dead by drying, an item must be completely dry to the touch inside and out and left to dry for at least another 48 hours before using back in the water.

Lance: Planning your trip carefully could also help you avoid spreading freshwater pests. For example using only one waterway per weekend will enable enough time between trips for most of your equipment to be completely dry.

However you will have to clean anything made from absorbent material, like life jackets and boat carpets.

John: That's the minimum requirements for protecting our lakes and rivers from the spread of freshwater pests.

Lance: Yeah, it's not comprehensive and there's more info on the MAF Biosecurity New Zealand website, including more specific cleaning instructions for everything from gravel extractors to whitebait nets. Even pets.

John: Ideally you'll check, clean, dry every time you leave a river or lake - a bit like putting on your seatbelt every time you drive.

[Lance and John get in the truck and put on their seatbelts.]

Lance: And by ensuring you check, clean, and dry when you move between waterways you're playing a valuable role in protecting our rivers and lakes now and for future generations.

[The truck drives away.]

[End title: MAF Biosecurity New Zealand logo. New Zealand. It's our place to protect. www.biosecurity.govt.nz]

[Thanks to:
Environment Bay of Plenty
Fish & Game New Zealand
Ian Gear

The Check, Clean, Dry programme is a partnership between the Department of Conservation, regional councils, industry, iwi and the community.]


The South Island is a controlled area

Freshwater pests, like didymo, spoil river activities for people and have the potential to affect the habitats of freshwater plants and animals. The South Island is a controlled area for didymo. This makes it a legal requirement to clean all gear used in the water before going from one waterway to another. So far, no didymo has been found in the North Island but it is good practice to check, clean, and dry when you move between waterways.

Our campaign focuses on the people most likely to travel between fresh waterways – especially kayakers, canoeists, jet boaters, pleasure boaters, anglers, and fly-fishers – also trampers, hunters, swimmers and drivers of campervans, and off-road vehicles.

The campaign is supported by a network of partners including regional councils, Department of Conservation, Fish & Game New Zealand, iwi, and affected industries.

Available brochures and materials

MPI has a range of brochures and leaflets to download and print, or you can order them from us:

How to order materials

To order materials, email brand@mpi.govt.nz

Find out more

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