Water samples taken in Rogaland and Vestland counties in December show that the harbor spout has spread further north than previously known. The samples were taken as part of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). a survey on behalf of the Norwegian Environment Agency.
The emerging species that lies on the seabed like a blanket is also called cold Japanese purse, or sea vomit in English.
It spreads quickly and can cause great ecological damage because it crowds out other species. This can have significant consequences for the ecology and biodiversity in Norwegian fjords and sea areas.
Proven for the first time in 2020
All finds were made in areas with a lot of industry and several fish farms.
The species was first detected in this country near Engøy in Stavanger in 2020. It now covers over 50 percent of the seabed there.
Found at Monstad
The northernmost finding of harbor spouts was made in the Fensfjord north of Mongstad near Bergen. This is an area with lots of industry and several fish farms nearby.
The finds were made at Skipevika, Sløvåg and a little further north in Brandangersundet.
– These industrial areas have a lot of shipping traffic, and the discovery of the spit here is serious because it can probably spread quickly with the boats that are moored there, writes Ellen Hambro, director of the Norwegian Environment Agency, in an email NRK.
Risk for the aquaculture industry
It is known from other countries that harbor vomit can affect mussel farming because plants grow back. It is therefore also alarming that finds of the species were made in the vicinity of fish farming facilities.
In January, the state administrations in Rogaland and Vestland organized an information event for the aquaculture industry, which was attended by the Institute for Marine Research, state administrations, the Norwegian Environment Agency and other directorates.
In February they called for a similar meeting for industrial companies. No harbor quay has currently been mapped further north than Fensfjorden, but mapping is continuing both north and south, and particularly in the major ports where shipping is heavy.
New find in the marina
According to the Biodiversity Act, those responsible for activities in the area with harbor spears are obliged to limit the risk of spread.
New discoveries were also made near previously known discoveries in Stavanger, Haugesund and at Askøy outside of Bergen. Among other things, harbor spears were found in a marina on the south side of Sølyst in Stavanger. Harbor spouts were also found in Egersund in the past.
– Sølyst marina is very busy and there is boat traffic in the summer. This therefore poses a major risk of further spread and it will be very important to put in place effective measures and routines to prevent further spread from the marina, says Hambro.
Warnings have been issued against moving pots in such areas in connection with last year’s lobster fishing.
Tests in the Mongstad quay area yield inconclusive results, explains the Norwegian Environment Agency. It is therefore not certain for the time being whether harbor spouts were also found at the industrial site or not, and further investigations are required.
New environmental DNA method used
Mapping of harbor spills is done using environmental DNA, which involves examining water samples to look for genetic material unique to the species. The Marine Research Institute is in the process of inspecting several of the cities where harbor spouts have been discovered.
The Norwegian Environment Agency has commissioned the Scientific Committee on Food and Environment (VKM) to carry out a risk assessment of the establishment and proliferation of harbor spears in Norway, where they will consider which measures are best to implement.
The committee will present proposals for action before Easter. The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Norwegian Directorate of the Sea, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Environment Agency are working together to assess how the legislation can be applied and whether new regulations are needed.
Measures that may be relevant may be to avoid unnecessary activity in an area where harbor spikes have been identified. Those who have a boat in the area can also help reduce the spread of harbor spit during inspection and cleaning of equipment.