Environmental Biosecurity supports our health, economic prosperity and national identity by managing invasive species and keeping them out of Australia. Caring for our land, seas and aquatic environments will benefit Australia, our culture and our way of life for generations to come.
The 2017 report Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: an independent review of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement (IGAB review) made a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the national biosecurity system, including a need for greater effort and focus on environmental biosecurity.
In response, the Australian Government, with the support of all state and territory governments, appointed Australia’s first Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (ACEBO) in October 2018. The ACEBO collaborates, partners and influences extensively across the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, as well as with state and territory governments, industry, non-government organisations, individuals and the community to strengthen environmental biosecurity outcomes and raise awareness of environmental biosecurity issues. The ACEBO is supported by the Environmental Biosecurity Office.
Invasive species have a negative effect on our clean air, water, and food and the resilience of our environment to drought, bushfires, floods and a changing climate. They can cause considerable cost and disruption to our way of life as Australians. Not only can they make our public spaces unusable and putting our diverse cultural sites at risk, the financial costs are also significant. For example, if red imported fire ants became established in Australia the impacts would cost the country an estimated $1.5 billion per year.
Environmental biosecurity addresses these challenges by ensuring the risks posed to the natural environment and social amenity by non-native pests, diseases and weeds are identified, prioritised and managed. Environmental biosecurity risks are managed through a variety of approaches including preventing exotic and emerging pests, weeds, and diseases from entering, emerging, establishing or spreading in Australia. Information on how to prevent and prepare for an outbreak and current national eradication programs can be found on the Outbreak website.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has primary responsibility for managing Australia’s biosecurity, including risks to Australia’s environment. Managing biosecurity risk to our environment frequently overlaps with managing biosecurity risks to our animal, plant and marine primary industries. Specific environmental biosecurity risk management programs include:
- improving community awareness and engagement in environmental biosecurity
- developing and implementing the National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases
- contributing to prevention measures to stop environmental pests, weeds and diseases reaching the border
- early detection and surveillance for environmental pests, weeds and diseases as part of more comprehensive surveillance systems
- raising environmental preparedness and response capacity to the same level as for production animals and plants
- improving the coordination of environmental biosecurity research with wider biosecurity and biodiversity research
Many of these activities are done in partnership with state and territory governments, environmental and community groups, and research organisations. Some investment is provided by the ACEBO through the Environmental Biosecurity Project Fund to deliver stronger environmental biosecurity outcomes.