Biosecurity officers at the Sydney mail centre scrambled to contain a potential biosecurity threat after intercepting a parcel that contained number of fertile eggs earlier this month.
The find by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources demonstrates the need for biosecurity vigilance not only with the travelling public but also with items sent unaccompanied.
Head of biosecurity at the department, Lyn O’Connell, said biosecurity was critically important for all Australians.
“Anyone who sends eggs without an import permit is breaking the law and putting our country at risk,” Ms O’Connell said.
“While being an island gives us some natural advantages in keeping risks offshore it is still vital that our biosecurity system safeguards our farms and broader agriculture industries, the environment and the community from pests and diseases present in other countries,” Ms O’Connell said.
“Biosecurity is not just about stopping things at the border. We work offshore to reduce the likelihood pests and diseases make it to Australia, at the border to stop them when they do, and onshore to detect and eradicate pests and diseases that make it here.
“It’s an ongoing and complex battle on a number of fronts, involving the regulation of goods, vessels and people coming to Australia.
“This latest discovery is concerning because the importation of hatchingeggs into Australia is strictly controlled.
“There are strict regulations due to the high biosecurity risk they pose as carriers for exotic diseases such as Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza.
“These viruses are highly contagious and can infect domestic poultry as well as many species of captive caged and wild birds with some strains able to be transmitted to humans.
“Over the years we have intercepted undeclared parcels of hatching eggs sent from a number of countries including the USA, UK, Thailand and South Africa.
“With the gross production value of the poultry industry estimated at $2.2 billion and the egg industry estimated at $653 million (ABS 2014) an outbreak of an exotic disease would have serious social and economic consequences for Australia.
In 2015-16 about 138 million articles of international mail were sent to Australia and 19 million international travellers arrived in Australia.
“Managing Australia’s biosecurity system is a big job,” Ms O’Connell said.
“We need people to do the right thing and not bring or send things to Australia that could result in pests of diseases getting here.
“That way we can concentrate our efforts on those who intentionally try to thwart our systems.”
For information about what can and can’t be sent to Australia go to agriculture.gov.au/travelling.
The egg importation matter is being investigated.