Priority list of exotic environmental pests and diseases

The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer has released an interim list of priority exotic environmental pests and diseases.

The Priority List focuses on exotic pests and diseases that are not established in Australia and that pose the highest risk to our environment and public spaces. This list will be used to enable activities that help prevent the entry, establishment and spread of exotic pests and diseases.

Purpose of the list

The purpose of the Priority List is to:

  • raise government, industry and community awareness of environmental pests and diseases
  • guide surveillance activities
  • strengthen preparedness and response capabilities
  • inform research and development.

Invasive species are the primary threat to Australian fauna and flora. Australia’s environment is unique. Conservation International identifies Australia as 1 of 17 megadiverse countries.

Australian biodiversity comprises around 600,000 species of animals and plants, many of which are endemic.

Almost a hundred species have become extinct in the last 200 years. Another 1,770 are threatened or endangered. 1,257 threatened and endangered Australian species are affected by:

  • 207 invasive plants
  • 57 invasive animals
  • 3 disease-causing organisms.

We must prevent new invasive species entering and establishing in Australia. Prevention delivers the highest return on investment. Far more than eradication, containment or asset protection.

The 2017 Biosecurity Review identified the need to adopt a systematic approach to determine and plan for national priority animal, plant and environmental pests and diseases.

How the list will be used

The benefits of the Priority List increase the more it is used. It could be used by government and non-government stakeholders in many ways. The Australian Government is consulting on how to best use the Priority List.

Raise awareness of environmental pests and diseases

We plan to use the Priority List to increase the profile of the listed species among government, industry and the community. We plan to raise awareness through social media, our website and other opportunities.

Guide surveillance and detection activities

We plan to use the Priority List to raise awareness among our staff conducting surveillance at and near the border (including Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy staff and border surveillance teams).

The Priority List will also be used to strengthen and inform general surveillance done by community groups, tailored to special interests when needed.

The Priority List assists us to ensure that the exotic pests and diseases that pose the highest risk to our environment and public spaces can be readily identified or diagnosed.

Develop preparedness and response

The technical species information gathered as part of developing the Priority List will be used as a resource during pest and disease preparedness related activities.

The CEBO will use the Priority List to inform simulation response exercises. These are conducted to strengthen environmental biosecurity preparedness and capacity for a response.

Inform research and development

The Priority List will be used to inform further research on the risks, impacts and mitigation measures for environmental pests and diseases.


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

Interim Priority List

We released the Interim Priority List for public consultation, which closed on 4 October. The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer would like to thank all who have submitted comments on the interim Priority List. The comments received will be considered in order to finalise the List.

Publication details

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, 2019

The Priority List covers eight thematic groups. It identifies exotic pests and diseases that pose the highest risk to our environment and public spaces.


DocumentPagesFile size
The Priority List PDF2462 KB
The Priority List DOCX219 KB
Aquatic animal diseases and their pathogens PDF4625 KB
Aquatic animal diseases and their pathogens DOCX426 KB
Freshwater invertebrates PDF5636 KB
Freshwater invertebrates DOCX526 KB
Marine pests PDF4624 KB
Marine pests DOCX426 KB
Native animal diseases and their pathogens PDF4621 KB
Native animal diseases and their pathogens DOCX426 KB
Plant diseases and their pathogens PDF5859 KB
Plant diseases and their pathogens DOCX528 KB
Terrestrial invertebrates PDF4630 KB
Terrestrial invertebrates DOCX426 KB
Vertebrates PDF4625 KB
Vertebrates DOCX426 KB
Weeds and freshwater algae PDF4462 KB
Weeds and freshwater algae DOCX432 KB

If you have difficulty accessing this file, visit web accessibility for assistance.

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The Priority List focuses on the species that are of the greatest threat to the environment and/or social amenity at the national level.

The Priority List focuses on species not present in Australia. The species:

  • have not been introduced to Australia (unless eradicated or is under an official eradication program), or
  • have not established self-sustaining populations in Australia.

The list captures a diverse range of pests and diseases which have been assessed across the eight thematic groups.

For further information about the scope of the Priority List, see the Information Paper.

Why is ‘species X’ not on the list?

Species may have been excluded because:

  • they are unlikely to enter Australia
  • there is unsuitable habitat and/or climate
  • they have no known hosts in Australia
  • the species taxonomy is uncertainvery little is known about them or their potential impacts in Australia
  • they are allowed to be privately kept by state or territory laws (this does not include species in highly contained environments such as zoos)
  • they are already established in Australia.

We used a collaborative, rigorous and evidence-based process to determine priority species.

This process accounted for overall impact, along with the likelihood of entry, establishment and spread. For each thematic group, experts assessed around 20-25 species. Experts shortlisted these species from lists of over 1000 species, depending on the group.

Over 160 species across eight taxonomic groups were shortlisted for full assessment.

The process has been developed to ensure that it can be built upon as new information arises. Mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that ad hoc amendments can be made to the list, including assessment of new high risk species.

But species X is already in Australia – why is it on the list?

This list focuses on species not yet present in Australia. Exotic species are defined as those that are not introduced, or if they have been, are under an official eradication program. A few species on the list are under eradication and therefore classed as exotic. If the species is no longer under eradication and is being managed, the species would no longer meet the criteria for the list and will be removed.

We can update the Priority List as new information becomes available.

Why are there only five species for each thematic group on the list?

This list highlights exotic invasive species of concern to Australia's environment and social amenity. Experts jointly decided that the list should contain high risk species from all eight thematic groups. They decided that five species from each thematic group (total of 40) was suitable to promote to the general public. This will increase awareness of the key environmental biosecurity threats facing Australia. The longer lists will be used for other purposes, such as to update our pest and disease repository.

How does this list relate to other priority lists?

The Priority List doesn’t replace other national lists or processes. Other priority lists exist that have been developed for different purposes. State and territory governments also have compiled lists to meet regulatory obligations.

Other national priority lists include:

Other lists developed in Australia include (but are not limited to):

  • Live import list
  • List of exotic vertebrates in Australia
  • NAQS target list (pests, diseases and weeds)

Our approach

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and other key areas in the Department of Agriculture led the development of the interim Priority List. We collaborated with experts and key stakeholders.

The approach used involved:

  • developing a database of exotic invasive species that have the potential to have environmental impacts in Australia (see the method applied here)
  • reviewing prioritisation methods from across the world
  • consulting with list makers to provide options to experts on methods for developing the Priority List
  • participants jointly agreeing on the purpose of the list, its use, audience and methodology; and testing a suitable methodology during workshops
  • experts shortlisting candidate species for assessment for the Priority List
  • using a structured expert elicitation and semi-quantitative methodology to assess and prioritise species.

Find out more about the process used from the Information Paper.

Information Paper

Publication details

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, 2019

The Information Paper presents the interim Priority List, description of the prioritisation methodology used, as well as other background information, to support the public consultation process.




File size

Information Paper PDF


1.9 MB

Information Paper DOCX


337 KB

If you have difficulty accessing this file, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Management of the Priority List

The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) will be the custodian of the Priority List and will administer its use and manage any ad hoc and planned reviews.

The Environment and Invasives Committee (EIC) has policy oversight of the Priority List. When developing, reviewing and amending of the Priority List, the EIC will consult with:

  • Plant Health Committee
  • Animal Health Committee
  • Marine Pest Sectoral Committee

The National Biosecurity Committee will be responsible for endorsing the final Priority List.

Future updates and reviews

The Priority List is a living document. We will update it based on new and better threat and impact data.

Adding or removing species can happen on an ad hoc basis. We may do this when new evidence becomes available. The Environment and Invasives Committee will manage updates.

The CEBO will conduct a review within three years of the Priority List’s release. We will hold subsequent reviews at no more than five yearly intervals. The Priority List, its underpinning purpose, listing criteria and methodology will be considered during these reviews.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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