Biosecurity Matters, Issue 6, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Biosecurity Matters

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Skippy and Noosa show how quarantine is done in Australia

Skippy the toy fox terrier is safely home from the USA, after a stay in the department’s Post-Entry Quarantine facility.

It’s been a year since we opened our consolidated Post-Entry Quarantine (PEQ) facility in Mickleham, near Melbourne airport, where 3629 dogs, 1596 cats and 334 horses have already made a temporary home.

Over that period, a massive 8112 kilograms of dog food was eaten by the hungry canines, with the felines chewing through 1230 kilograms of cat food while they underwent the mandatory 11-day minimum stay after entering Australia from overseas.

In the horse compound, more than 6847 showers were given, with 8635 towels being used to dry down the horses afterwards. These have included some Olympic and Para Olympic competitors, and Melbourne Cup horses.

Things have been just as busy in the plant compound, with 267 cultivars being imported directly into the new facility since it opened.

Noosa the cat and Skippy the toy fox terrier are just two of the animals imported through the Mickleham facility.

Continue reading about Skippy and Noosa show how quarantine is done in Australia

Noosa originally got her name because she was adopted from a Utah animal shelter on a snowy March day when her owners were missing the beaches back home in Australia. She is now thriving in the warmer climate of Brisbane.

PEQ Director Gaylene Podhajski said hard work by staff had ensured a smooth transition to the Mickleham facility, which brings all of the department’s quarantine expertise into one location.

“To have one of our clients describe our transition as “seamless” is a testament to the energy, flexibility, commitment, professionalism and dedication of the team, and all of the people who have supported us along the way,” Ms Podhajski said.

The next stage of the Mickleham facility is progressing well, with expansion of the existing cat and dog compounds to be completed by February 2017. A ruminant compound will be built in mid-2017, with a new avian compound ready by 2018.

For more information about the Mickleham PEQ facility, visit the PEQ GovSpace site or the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

MARS is now in full sail across all Australian sea ports

A MARS plaque commemorates the successful launch with (left to right) Raelene Vivian, First Assistant Secretary, Compliance Division; Rod Nairn AM, CEO, Shipping Australia Limited; Sanjay Boothalingam, Director, MARS Project; Tina Hutchison, Assistant Secretary, Pathway Compliance; Paul Hollingsworth, Director, Service Delivery Division.

The Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS) commenced on the 26 September after the successful completion of a pilot in Mackay and Gladstone.  Stage 1 of the rollout was in the Pilbara Region. The final round of implementation commenced on 4 November and has now been rolled out across all Australian locations.

The implementation included a comprehensive period of training and readiness activities between July and November 2016 for approximately 200 staff and 300 hundred shipping agencies and vessel masters around Australia.  Industry have provided extremely positive feedback to the implementation overall.

More than 4000 reports already submitted online

As of 29 November 2016, the following submissions, assessment and inspection activities have been successfully completed in MARS:

  • 2,154 Ballast Water Reports
  • 2,098 Pre-arrival Reports
  • 1,555 Inspections

The department continues to closely monitor and manage MARS implementation issues. 
A series of communication products and instructional material were developed for implementation activities and continue to be provided through direct feedback from staff and industry.

The success of the MARS project is testament to the huge collaboration effort between various divisions in the department, key shipping industry bodies and other Government agencies.  This partnership was recognised in a recent meeting with industry bodies with plaques being presented to Shipping Australia Limited and Maritime Industry Australia Limited.

Regions bring fresh ideas to biosecurity talks

Department Secretary Daryl Quinlivan addresses the Forum.

The Department hosted the annual National Biosecurity Forum in November, bringing together 80 representatives from across industry and government for a day of workshops that focused on improving the management of Australia’s biosecurity.

The forum built on a series of seven regional roundtables, which were run in conjunction with our National Biosecurity Committee colleagues. The roundtables were highly successful, with stakeholder feedback indicating that 97% of participants found them useful and 100% saying they would recommend them to others.

This was the first time the roundtables had been run as a series of state-based events, which gave industry and government an opportunity to come together to discuss biosecurity issues at a regional level. Key themes arising from the roundtables were collated and analysed, to be further discussed and explored at the national event. 

Hosted in Canberra, the day kicked off with a welcome from Department Secretary Daryl Quinlivan, who took the opportunity to highlight some the biosecurity successes this year.

Continue reading about Regions bring fresh ideas to biosecurity talks

The forum centred on four workshop sessions, where participants were able to discuss the key challenges and potential solutions for shared responsibility, on-farm biosecurity, community awareness and surveillance capacity.

A key focus of the forum was building a shared understanding of biosecurity and the part each of us play. Participants in the forum agreed that industry and government should strive for a single definition of 'shared responsibility', making sure everyone’s on-farm biosecurity is as good as their neighbour's and increased involvement in biosecurity activities from community stakeholders that may not have previously understood the role they can play.

The regional biosecurity roundtables and the national forum will return in 2017. For more information, and to read a summary of discussions from 2016 roundtables, visit biosecurity roundtable.

Funding innovation to help farmers win the war on pests

Wild dogs are a major threat to livestock, wool production and wildlife across Australia.

Are you working on new and better ways to control weeds or pest animals, such as wild dogs?

Pest animals and weeds cost our farmers around $4 billion a year in livestock losses, disease transmission and controls and weed management costs.

To help reduce these costs, the department is offering $10 million in grants for the development of new or improved control technologies and tools through the Control tools and technologies for established pest animals and weeds programme.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce launched the initiative in late October, encouraging research organisations, universities, governments, and primary industry organisations to apply. Individuals, including farmers and land managers partnering with eligible companies or organisations can also apply.

The programme is one of four being rolled out through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper $50 million Established Pest Animals and Weeds measure.

Funding is available for projects going ahead in 2016–17 to 2018–19. Applications close 5 pm, AEDST 23 January 2017.

Apply or learn more

Join our recreational and commercial vessel surveys

Recreational boat owners are key to discovering the extent of biofouling in Australian waters.

We’re running two national surveys to better understand biofouling on vessels in Australian marine waters.

Biofouling occurs when plants and animals attach and grow on a vessel’s submerged areas, such as the hull and propeller. It can reduce the fuel efficiency and speed of a vessel, and increase maintenance costs to vessel owners.

Vessels that have biofouling may unintentionally transport invasive plant and animal pest species to new locations within Australia’s marine environment, which poses a serious threat to native biodiversity and can have widespread effects on the economy and ecosystem health.

Recreational vessel survey

Recreational boat owners are being asked to participate in a national recreational vessel survey. The survey seeks to gather information about common antifouling practices and understand the patterns and movements of recreational vessels around Australia's coastline.

Continue reading about Join our recreational and commercial vessel surveys

The data captured will help support Australia’s recreational boating sector in the ongoing self-management of biofouling. It will also help us better understand and reduce the risks of new pests and diseases spreading through Australia’s waters.

The survey will run from February to July 2017. To learn more, visit the recreational vessel survey page.

Commercial vessel survey

We’ve also commissioned the scientific consultancy Ramboll Environ to undertake hull and biofouling surveys of international vessels arriving in Australia.

The survey includes an in-water hull photographic survey and a short online questionnaire. You will receive a free dive report of your vessel.

The department is encouraging owners, operators and agents of international or domestic vessels that visit ports outside Australia to apply.

The survey is running from November 2016 to June 2017. By participating, you are helping us develop new internationally consistent biofouling standards for Australia.

For more information or to register your interest, visit the commercial vessel survey page.

Protecting Australian bats from fatal fungus

An overseas bat with white nose syndrome. The department is boosting biosecurity efforts to prevent the disease entering Australia. (Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is working with other organisations to boost biosecurity measures to prevent the entry of an exotic disease rapidly spreading in bats across North America.

White Nose Syndrome (WNS) of bats was first identified in North America in 2006, and has since spread across the USA and Canada, causing the deaths of over 5 million cave-hibernating bats.

The fungus that causes WNS has been found in Europe and China, where it affects individual bats, but does not cause mass mortalities.

It’s thought the fungus was introduced to North America by human activity, possibly from contaminated gear or footwear.

First Assistant Secretary Animal Division, Tim Chapman, said WNS was identified as an emerging disease threat through our usual scanning practices.

“To better understand the risk to Australia, we commissioned a risk assessment by a group of experts,” Mr Chapman said.  

“This found that there is a risk to Australian bats, particularly one species that is Critically Endangered.

Continue reading about Protecting Australian bats from fatal fungus

“Cavers travelling to Australia after visiting caves overseas pose the greatest risk of introduction.

“An international caving congress being held in Sydney next year creates a period of particular risk.

“Our staff are working with Wildlife Health Australia and the congress organisers to help with biosecurity protocols for the field trips being held before and after the event.

“The organisers have been very proactive in identifying this risk and putting measures in place to reduce it.

“International cavers can play their part by not bringing their own gear into Australia, and following the appropriate decontamination measures.

“To prepare for the worst, we’ve provided funding to Wildlife Health Australia to produce response guidelines for use in the event of an incursion of WNS.”

The department is also assessing the need for additional measures at the border to reduce the risk of WNS entering Australia during the conference, and at other times.

“Anyone who thinks they may have seen bats with White Nose Syndrome in Australia should contact their state or territory biosecurity agency or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888,” added Mr Chapman.

For more information visit the WNS page on the department’s website.

Border Finds – Ladybird, ladybird fly away from our home

Package containing live convergent ladybeetles.

A mail parcel containing thousands of exotic ladybeetles recently arrived at Melbourne airport, where it was spotted and contained by our vigilant biosecurity officers.

Inside were more than 3000 live convergent ladybeetles (Hippodamia convergens) which boarded a flight from the US to Australia. Unlike our native ladybeetles, this exotic species is a biosecurity risk because it attacks other Australian insects.

After our colleagues at the Australian Border Force intercepted the parcel at the Melbourne Gateway Facility, they referred it to our biosecurity officers, who quickly contained it.

The ladybeetles had been purchased online to be used as ‘natural pest control’, because they feed on aphids and other insects that can damage crops and plants. However, if these exotic beetles are brought to Australia, they can pose a serious biosecurity risk by attacking other non-pest species such as mites.

As it contained such a large number of beetles, the parcel could have led to a serious incursion, damaging entire ecosystems and the industries that depend on them. Plant material was also present inside the parcel for the beetles to feed on, which could have been carrying other pests or diseases.

Because the package was declared by the sender, no compliance action was taken and the goods were destroyed.

Continue reading about border Finds

Border Finds – A slimy surprise inside

Our biosecurity officers got a slimy surprise when they intercepted a package at the Melbourne Gateway Facility containing more than 100 exotic snails.

When examined, the snails were found to be two exotic species commonly sold in the overseas aquarium trade, the predatory Assassin Snail (Clea helena) and the Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis).

The Assassin Snail is native to Southeast Asia, and it feeds on worms as well as other snails. Because there are no native Australian carnivorous freshwater snails, this species would pose a serious environmental threat if it was allowed to establish here. In addition, the Zebra Nerite Snail could impact native snail species by outcompeting with them for resources if it was introduced to Australia.

The goods were destroyed.


Exotic snails in a package at the Melbourne Gateway Facility​.

Keep Australia safe when shopping online this Christmas

It’s important to be biosecurity aware when you shop online. For a list of things that can’t be posted to Australia, visit Bringing or mailing goods to Australia.

If you’re sending or bringing goods to Australia for Christmas, you can check what to avoid, what may require treatment, and what we suggest as a safe option.

See the latest Import industry advice notices or Export industry and market access notices.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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