Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Tests to find Rena's effect on marine life

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Bay of Plenty residents will know how their region's precious marine ecosystem has fared through the Rena disaster by next month's first anniversary of the cargo ship's grounding.

The MV Rena is thought to have spilt at least 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean in the days after it struck the Astrolabe Reef on October 5 last year. By that same date this year, the first results of a major combined study looking at its effects on the environment are expected to be released by chemists.

Professor Chris Battershill, leader of the research team Te Mauri Moana, said samples of kaimoana species tuatua, pipi, paua, kina throughout the winter months had now been sent off.

"The results will give an estimate of what has happened to the ecology in the Bay for all habitats as at winter, with the aim of repeating it through spring and summer," he said.

Species were being specifically tested for damage to their reproductive ability and whether contaminants had progressed through the marine food chain.

Scientists were also analysing whether any metals in the ecosystem - which would move through it much more slowly than oil - had passed into kaimoana.

Tests earlier this year of oil compounds called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) found several species had bounced back to their state before the disaster.

But Professor Battershill described this promising testing as "low-level" compared to that being done within the $3 million Rena Recovery programme.

A full report of all of the projects under the programme is expected by early next year.

- NZ Herald

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