Environmental biosecurity

The Department of Agriculture has primary responsibility for managing Australia’s biosecurity, including managing biosecurity risk to Australia’s environment. Protecting Australia’s environment from pests and diseases that are likely to cause harm is important so that all Australian’s can enjoy our environment and unique biodiversity now and into the future. Managing biosecurity risk to the environment is not done in isolation, it is a key part of the biosecurity system which is managed along with animal, plant and human health. To ensure that the management of Australia’s environmental biosecurity risk is effective and appropriate, the department:

  • works collaboratively with the Department of the Environment and Energy to develop and implement policies and programs that protect and conserve the environment
  • conducts risk analyses, including import risk analyses, so that goods and people arriving in Australia do not pose an unacceptable biosecurity risk
  • provides inspection and certification services to facilitate the safe movement of people, goods and conveyances into and out of Australia and;
  • partners with state and territory governments, industry and communities to manage pest and disease outbreaks that threaten Australia’s environment

Biosecurity risk does not discriminate and, if not managed properly, it can have devastating impacts for Australia. Managing risk to Australia’s environment is a crucial part of maintaining a modern and robust biosecurity system.

Contact the Environmental Biosecurity Office if you would like to be on the mailing list for environmental biosecurity events and other related information.

Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer

The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer is similar to the Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Plant Protection Officer. They will provide national policy leadership on the environmental impact of foreign pests and diseases. Read more about this role and our environmental biosecurity priorities.

National priority list of exotic environmental pests, weeds and diseases project

In response to recommendations in the 2017 Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system report, the department initiated a collaborative project with experts from state, territory and Commonwealth governments, the New Zealand Government, universities and other organisations to develop a national priority list of exotic pests, weeds and diseases that could harm Australia’s environment and social amenity. An interim Priority List of exotic environmental pests, weeds and diseases list (the Priority List) has now been developed. The Environmental Biosecurity Office is currently consulting with internal and external stakeholders about the implementation of the Priority List to maximise the contribution it makes to safeguarding Australia’s environment from exotic pest, weed and disease incursions.

Project aims

The project identified high-risk species from all taxonomic groups and ecosystems. This includes terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, marine pests, plants, plant pathogens and wildlife diseases and aquatic animal diseases. The project aims to ensure that Australia’s native flora and fauna, unique environments and the social amenity they provide are protected from the exotic species that, based on best available knowledge, are most likely to threaten them.

Completing a priority list for exotic environmental pests, weeds and diseases will go towards meeting one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity.


More information is available about how the Priority List was developed, which species are listed, how we will use it and other frequently asked questions about the list.

The development of the Interim Priority List follows an extensive process of research and consultation. We held workshops in March and June 2018 to bring together key stakeholders from governments and scientific experts to inform the development of the list. These experts also assessed species for the Priority List.

A public consultation process about the Priority List was held during September 2019 with special focus on the use of the list. The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer would like to thank all who have submitted comments on the interim Priority List. The comments received are being considered in order to finalise the List.

The final list is expected to be published during the first half of 2020. The prioritisation process and Priority List will be reviewed and updated after three years.

More on the Priority List project, contact Environmental Biosecurity Office.

Project timelines

Date Milestones
March and June 2018 Stakeholder workshops
August 2018 – June 2019 Experts developed the draft Priority List
July 2019 Sectoral committee consultation
August – December 2019 Stakeholder consultation
Late 2019 to early 2020 Final sectoral committee and National Biosecurity Committee sign off
First half of 2020 Publish the final Priority List

The environmental biosecurity project fund

The Environmental Biosecurity Project Fund has been established to improve the ability and capacity to prevent, prepare for, detect, identify/diagnose and respond to exotic environmental pests and diseases. A number of projects have been funded to date.

Environmental Biosecurity Roundtables

The Environmental Biosecurity Roundtables are held twice a year and and are jointly hosted by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment and Energy. The events attract attendees from around the country representing all tiers of government; land and natural resource management (NRM) organisations; researchers; conservation groups; and leading plant and animal health bodies. During the events participants share knowledge, build valuable networks and discuss how we can work together to protect Australia’s environment, way of life and clean, green reputation from the threat of exotic pests and diseases.

Please contact the Environmental Biosecurity Office if you would like more information or an invitation to the next roundtable.

2019 Environmental Biosecurity Roundtables

1 May

Environmental Biosecurity Roundtable 1
National Museum of Australia, Canberra

30 October Environmental Biosecurity Roundtable 2 – SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium

Reports on previous environmental roundtables




Last reviewed: 5 December 2019
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