Bay of Plenty locals who are reeling in the region's pesky catfish problem scooped the top gong at New Zealand's Biosecurity Awards.
The event, held in Auckland last night, is now in its third year and attracted a record number of 70 entries.
The supreme award went to Te Arawa Lakes Trust for its project dubbed Catfish Killas, which was established late last year in response to an incursion of catfish in Lake Rotoiti.
The pest species prey on small native fish, eat fish eggs, compete with kōura (freshwater native crayfish) and stir up sediment.
Judging panel chair John Hellstrom said the judges were unanimous in choosing Te Arawa Catfish Killas as the supreme award winner. The group was also awarded the Community Pihinga Award for new initiatives or projects.
"The Catfish Killers manage the catfish population with the help of 48 fyke nets, catching up to 1000 catfish a week," Dr Hellstrom said.
Project co-ordinator William Anaru said nets were checked daily by volunteers, including students from 16 local schools, polytech Toi Ohomai, one early childhood centre, as well as lakeside residents and tourists.
One volunteer who attended the awards was 10-year-old Malcom Bailey, who had already caught more than 550 catfish in his spare time.
Mr Anaru said it was very easy for locals to get involved, "sometimes you don't even get wet," he said.
The catfish that were caught in the nets were killed and sometimes used as fishbait for snapper, fertiliser on the garden, or for those whose palate was that way inclined, the occasional fish was turned into a meal, he said.
"We've had a few requests from American chefs in Rotorua to cook them up and eat them and they know how to decorate them properly, I'm still trying to figure that part out ... you have to be pretty keen."
While it was early days, Mr Anaru said they were now catching less catfish in their nets, which suggested their biosecurity efforts were starting to pay off.
"The probably biggest change to biodiversity, just those catfish numbers have gone down, so hopefully we've caught most of them."
Minister's Biosecurity Award
Winner: David Cade, commonly known as 'Didymo Dave', for being a passionate and long-standing champion and volunteer for freshwater biosecurity, pest control and conservation; and a tireless promoter of the Check, Clean, Dry campaign to stop the transfer of freshwater pests and prevent the introduction of new ones.
New Zealand Biosecurity Department of Conservation Community Kahiwi Award (for established initiatives/projects)
Winner: Te Roroa Commercial Development Company for the Kauri Dieback Response Plan.
New Zealand Biosecurity GIA Industry Award
Winner: Livestock Improvement Corporation for helping to protect the national herd from Mycoplasma bovis.
New Zealand Biosecurity AsureQuality Emerging Leader Award
Winner: Kane McElrea of Northland Regional Council for forging sustainable community and iwi-led biosecurity programmes and help turn the tide on dwindling kiwi populations across Northland.
Te Puni Kōkiri Māori Award
Winner: Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust: Tiaki Manaakitia te Tangata, Tiaki Manaakitia te Taiao for growing native plants and securing sustainable long-term funding.
New Zealand Biosecurity Eagle Technology Local and Central Government Award
Winner: Auckland Council Biosecurity Island Team for protecting the natural and ecological values of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf
New Zealand Biosecurity Bio-Protection Research Centre Science Award
Winner: Myrtle Rust Research Consortium for its integrated and rapid research response to myrtle rust.
New Zealand Biosecurity Mondiale Innovation Award
Winner: Automotive Technologies Limited for designing and building its own specialised heat treatment facilities designed specifically for the effective heat treatment of vehicles.