The actions of a crew member on a New Zealand yacht (Sailing Nikau), which passed through Niue a month or so ago, has left bio-security and border control officials on the island angry and somewhat flabbergasted.
In a video posted on Facebook and Youtube, the father of the family of two adults and three children on board the sail boat Nikau, openly admitted to breaking the island’s quarantine laws. He showed the followers of his Vlog, Sailing Nikau, his dog running on the reef with a commentary that he was warned not to bring the dog ashore and that if he did so and was caught, the dog could be put down. And his reason for allowing the dog ashore? Because he said in his commentary, he had seen scrawny dogs on the island that looked a lot less healthier than his mutt.
But that was not the end of it. He then decided, that he would release a live specimen of a hermit crab, which by his own admission, could have come from the Caribbean.
His accompanying commentary before releasing the crab is beyond belief:
I don’t know if you’ve heard but the latest thing to do is to introduce new species to other countries. I mean its real old school thinking that’s not a cool thing to do. It’s real cool and so, the good news is, there’s lots of coconuts here on Niue. I think he came from the Caribbean…maybe, we’re not really sure where, and he is going to introduce a whole new family of other coconut crabs on Niue and establish a whole eco system. I’m just kidding actually, we did do our research and there are other coconut crabs on Niue and this little fella needs a home.
The video shows very clearly that the crab in question is not a coconut crab but appears to be of the species known locally as ugamea. Although he claims a little later in the video that the crab could have come from Niue, the red colouring of the crab’s claws would indicate that it is a species not found on the island.
Exactly where the crab was released is not certain but it would have been on the reef somewhere at Tufukia, the same area where he allowed his dog to run freely.
The Director of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Mr Poi Okesene whose department is responsible for bio-security said that he is angry that someone from New Zealand – a country with strict controls – should openly and with impunity break the island’s bio-security regulations.
“The arrogance of this man is unbelieveable – it seems that he is treating the whole thing as something of joke, a big laugh”, Mr Okesene said.
“The deliberate release of the crab or any other living thing that is not native to Niue and the act of allowing his dog ashore is a clear breach of our regulations”. Mr Okesene added that his department are consulting with authorities in New Zealand.
As a result of this incident government officials are undertaking a review of the border control regimen regarding the entry of yachts to the island. While the majority of visiting yachts respect and appreciate the need for border control, there have been occasions when authorities have had to intervene and issue a warning. In more recent times, two people on a dinghy, seen chasing after a whale, were intercepted and warned by DAFF staff on board the SAR launch. Others have been seen to try and swim with the whales, which is forbidden under local regulations.
The Niue Yacht Club has done much to promote the island as a friendly stop-over for the large number of yachts sailing in the region. The Club has provided moorings in the bay and have recently opened a new head-quarters in the old government bond store. But just how much the yachties contribute to the island’s economy is open for debate. There is however no debate on the estimated $40,000 plus per annum received by the government from departure tax.
Over the years the people of Alofi have claimed that the presence of ciguatera – the organism responsible for fish poisoning – is the result of the large number of ocean going vessels anchored on their doorstep and in the middle of their marine food-basket. For them, their preference is to see the yachts go sailing off into the sunset and over the horizon and never to come back.
You can access the vlog on YouTube by searching the phrase “Sailing Nikau”.