Programme Information

A challenge for marine biosecurity is to obtain accurate and timely identifications of specimens that are suspected of being foreign to New Zealand. New Zealand has a particularly rich indigenous marine biodiversity, with more than 17,000 recorded species and perhaps as many awaiting discovery. Many of these species do not occur anywhere else (i.e. they are endemic to New Zealand). Distinguishing species that are meant to be in our waters (i.e. indigenous to New Zealand) from those that are not (non-indigenous species) requires specialist taxonomic expertise. Increased research into, and surveillance for, marine pest species have resulted in a rapid rise in the numbers of samples being collected that require accurate identification. 

The Formation of MITS

The Marine Invasives Taxonomic Service (MITS) was established in November 2005 to provide a centralised service for identification of marine organisms of relevance to New Zealand biosecurity. MITS is funded by MAF Biosecurity New Zealand and managed by NIWA. It facilitates expert identifications from a network of taxonomic scientists based within New Zealand and overseas who are skilled at identifying New Zealand species and at distinguishing them from non-indigenous species (link to a list of experts?)

MITS has formal, standardised procedures that cover all stages necessary for accurate specimen identification, from receipt of samples through to final curation. It has a dedicated biosecurity database and a museum collection. The MITS collection is a central repository for all the samples collected and identified through marine biosecurity programmes. To date (May 2011), approximately 68,000 samples have been processed through MITS, with about 1200 individual species identified. Just over 260 species (20%) are non-indigenous to New Zealand.