MPSC Communique - May 2012

​Note from the MPSC Chair

Photograph of MPSC Chair - Doctor Michael Sierp.

The Marine Pest Sectoral Committee (MPSC) held its 3rd meeting in the historic setting of the NSW Fisheries Research Station at Cronulla. The research station has been referred to as the birthplace of marine research in Australia with over 110 years of history in its heritage listed buildings.

Thank you to Melissa Walker and Jane Frances from NSW Department of Primary Industries for arranging the meeting venue and Christa Sams and David Ireland from NSW Ports Authority for arranging the field trip around Port Botany.

The workload of our committee is increasing substantially. Over 50 agenda documents were tabled at the meeting. These papers covered significant keystone issues for the future of the MPSC committee such as strategy, research and development, cost recovery, biofouling guidelines, taxonomy, molecular identification techniques, emergency management, control program policy and freshwater invertebrates. MPSC currently has seven working groups and one subsidiary committee managing these projects.

Photograph of a transplanted saltmarsh and man-made estuary at Port Botany, Australia

Image: Transplanted saltmarsh and man-made estuary at Port Botany (Melissa Walker, NSW DPI)

During the field trip we heard from the NSW Ports Authority’s Marika Calfcas and Alison Karwaj about the Port Botany environmental reclamation project. This project illustrated how rehabilitation is expensive and will not support the same species diversity that was present before the damage was done. It was pleasing though to see how some of the terrestrial pollution and aquatic pollution mistakes of the past were being addressed successfully. It was clear visually that a significant investment had been made at this site to rehabilitate the terrestrial and aquatic environment.

With this in mind, I remind all stakeholders that our agenda is now more important than ever. With the projected 40% increase in port infrastructure over the coming years to meet shipping demand, the environmental and economic risks will also increase substantially. Aquatic systems possess unique and expensive challenges for pest management. Significant losses of marine biodiversity directly relate to costs to aquaculture, fisheries, tourism, social wellbeing and human health that cannot be overlooked. However, the largest cost implication for marine pests is on infrastructure and shipping transport where substantial hidden costs filter through to all industries reliant upon shipping trade and infrastructure maintenance.

Illustrating this, two vessels were quarantined on entry into Western Australia this financial year due to exotic biofouling at a direct cost of approximately $1M and $5M respectively to industry. As important, was the indirect cost of the months of worktime lost from those vessels leaving Australian waters for antifouling treatment. Australia is likely to experience these occurrences more often in the future without attention to the marine pest sector which suggests that the relatively small national investment in marine pest management, surveillance, diagnostics and research in some jurisdictions and in the marine sector in general requires attention. Prevention is several magnitudes less expensive than control and emergency response in this case. It is also a case of when and where the next marine pest establishes in Australia rather than ‘if’. We need to be prepared.

Australia has not yet ratified the International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments1 which is concerning considering we have the largest marine asset. The Great Barrier Reef is estimated to be worth over $5B to the Queensland economy alone2.

Australia needs to progress our marine pest National Monitoring Network (NMN) or accept the environmental damage, economic consequences and the resultant political fall-out if we are under-prepared. Whilst significant development has been taken by some jurisdictions, there is still no national domestic ballast water regulation system in place and no complete nationally coordinated field monitoring system in place to manage the risks for domestic biofouling. Currently, half of Australia (Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia) have completed their NMN obligations, with some monitoring completed in Queensland and Victoria. However, 12 out of the 18 NMN locations remain un-monitored 8 years after the NMN was approved nationally by governments. Domestic ballast water and potentially entrained pests therein are hence being dumped in ports Australia wide without regulation or direction. Only Victoria has a domestic regulatory system in place as a receiving port.

On a more positive note, I was asked recently by a colleague what has changed in marine pest management since the National Introduced Marine Pest Coordination Group (NIMPCG) was set up in 2000. Reflecting on the history of NIMPCG and its transition to the MPSC, I was happy to report that much has been done.

Key projects such as the Ballast Water Management Arrangements (for internationally arriving vessels), the National Monitoring Manual and Guidelines and the National Biofouling Management Guidelines for most of the key stakeholder groups are freely available online.

NIMPCG, with significant investment from government and industry built the necessary policy and information technology platform (the Australian Ballast Water Information System ABWMIS) to provide the capacity to manage ballast water both domestically and internationally. The national marine pests website is live and Australia is closer than ever to delivering on our reforms for ballast water and biofouling to bring real change in the protection of our waters from the threat of marine pests. Significant achievements have been made but there are some key steps to be taken to enact our ballast water management regulatory system, hence this is no time to rest on our laurels. The risks are currently unmet but can be achieved.

Dr Michael Sierp
Chair MPSC03
Member NIMPCG 15-30

Industry workshop and field trip – 16 May 2012

An Industry Consultation Workshop was held to build and strengthen relationships between representatives from shipping, commercial fishing, the petroleum industry, Ports Australia, marine consulting companies and government, and to hear industry views on the MPSC03 agenda items.

Industry attendees affirmed the role of the MPSC Industry Workshop days as an important forum for consultation between industry and government. Industry representatives in attendance were particularly interested in details of the proposed biofouling management arrangements and the draft Antifouling and in-water cleaning guidelines being developed by the Australian Government.

Rae Burrows from WA Fisheries gave an interesting presentation about innovative research being undertaken about the effects of vessel noise on biofouling species settlement. Using ascidians and mussels as the test species, the researchers found that:

  • vessels in port emit sound that attracts fouling species
  • attraction to noise appears to occur early in the fouling process but once a biofouling threshold is reached there may be little influence of sound
  • the time to attachment was significantly faster in the presence of vessel noise, particularly if the noise was of high intensity treatments (e.g. near generators).
Photograph of an airport friendly fish cleaning facility

Image: Airport friendly fish cleaning facility (Melissa Walker, NSW DPI)

Subject to funding, the researchers intend to run more sound trials with other biofouling species and will try to identify frequencies that attract or inhibit settlement. They also want to investigate whether simple actions such as dampening of vessel sound will reduce larvae attachment or if switching to land based power while in port influences biofouling settlement and establishment.

In the afternoon attendees travelled to Port Botany to undertake a site tour of a constructed fish habitat, the Penrhyn Estuary, and adjacent public recreation areas and boat ramp constructed by the Sydney Ports Authority.

Member workshop – 17 May 2012

MPSC members discussed the need for a national strategy for the marine pest sector.

As a new committee, there is value in developing a strategy to identify issues, challenges, weaknesses and priorities, then to identify a series of key strategies to address them. This information can then be used to drive the MPSC work plan to achieve a cohesive National System, as well as being a useful tool for advocating investment in the marine pest biosecurity sector.

The workshop was run by an external facilitator who, prior to the meeting, had interviewed key industry stakeholders to gauge their views on such questions as:

  • What are the pros and cons of developing a Marine Pest Strategy?
  • Do you think we should have a Marine Pest Strategy?
  • What should a Marine Pest Strategy Cover?
  • What do you feel the key risks/opportunities are in creating a strategy?
  • Future engagement – how would you like to be involved?.

The concept of a National Marine Pest strategy was supported by those interviewed, and was strongly supported by most. All interview respondents wanted to be involved in the strategy’s development.

MPSC agreed to continue the development of a marine pest strategy.

Stakeholders will be invited to participate in the development of the strategy document through a full day workshop to be held coinciding with MPSC04 in October. Details will be available soon.

MPSC03 meeting notes – 17 May 2012

Jurisdictional reports

Committee members provide reports to each MPSC meeting summarising marine pest biosecurity activities within each member jurisdiction.

Key activities reported to MPSC 03 include:

  • SA has secured funds for a community project designed to remove the European fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii) from Grange jetty and monitor the pylons to see which species subsequently colonise the jetty pylons.
  • WA announced that it will undertake monitoring of major ports every year as a result of greatly increasing vessel activity in its waters.
  • A number of jurisdictions are in the process of biosecurity legislative reform including Victoria, Queensland (lapsed due to election processes) and the Australian Government. WA passed the Fish Resources Management Act in November 2011, providing clarification of the department’s biosecurity responsibilities and providing significant powers in the event of a biosecurity emergency.

Strategic Work plan

A strategic work plan designed to guide MPSC activities for 2012-2013 is close to completion. Once finalised, the work plan will be submitted to the National Biosecurity Council for endorsement under the draft NBC operating guidelines. Items considered high priority by the committee included:

  • reviewing and maintaining the CCIMPE trigger list
  • monitoring National Monitoring Network locations
  • reviewing the national control plans

Aquaculture Guidelines

The National biofouling management guidelines for aquaculture are currently being re-structured by the Aquaculture Biofouling Guidelines Working Group to reflect the production technology used (for example: ‘cage’, ‘longline’ and ‘bag/rack’) rather than the previous species based approach. The working group is aiming to complete the guidelines for presentation to MPSC05 in May 2013.


Monitoring has now been completed for the following locations: Portland (Vic), Port Hedland, Port Dampier, Fremantle, Christmas Island, Cape Lambert (WA), Port of Darwin (NT), Port Adelaide (SA), and Skardon River (QLD). Monitoring is underway or expected to commence shortly at Geraldton and Garden Island (WA).

A Cost Recovery Working Group has been established to examine cost recovery for monitoring activities at National Monitoring Network sites only. The group is expected to report back to MPSC04 in October this year.

Marine pest website and NIMPIS

The marine pests website will be progressively updated over the coming months. These changes will bring the site up to date with recent developments and improve useability. Committee members have also agreed to provide case studies of marine pest outbreaks and of marine pest awareness projects/activities conducted within each jurisdiction. The basic navigation structure and design of the site will not be altered.

The committee agreed to actively promote the availability of NIMPIS (the National Introduced Marine Pest Information System) through jurisdictional websites.

Did you know?

NIMPIS contains detailed information on over 100 marine species including:

  • distribution maps
  • identifying features
  • reproduction and habitat
  • predators
  • vectors
  • references

International meetings

IMO-BLG 16 update

The 16th session of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) was held in London from 29 January 2012.

BLG also agreed to refer the draft guidance document for minimizing the transfer of invasive aquatic species as biofouling on recreational craft to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting 64 for approval. This is a support document for the Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species approved by MEPC in July 2011.

The Ballast Water and Biofouling Working Group continued work on a sampling and guidance document, however this was not approved at plenary. Work on this document is likely to continue at BLG 17.

IMO-MEPC 63 update

The Australian Government representative also provided an update on the 63rd session of MEPC held in London from 27 February 2012.

MEPC granted basic approval to four ballast water treatment systems and final approval to five systems. Additionally the committee was notified of the type approval of a further four systems bringing the current number of type approvals to 21.

Upcoming MPSC Meetings

The Committee agreed that MPSC meetings will rotate around the jurisdictions with upcoming meetings planned as follows:

  • MPSC04: 23-25 October 2012 in Western Australia
  • MPSC05: May 2013 in South Australia
Member Information
Member Jurisdiction Agency Contact
Michael Sierp
(Chair- MPSC 03)
South Australia Biosecurity SA Email Michael Sierp
08 8207 7838
Karina Keast Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Email IMS-Program
Anne Ferguson Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Email Anne Ferguson
Rae Burrows Western Australia Department of Fisheries Email Rae Burrows
Jane Frances New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Email Aquatic Pests
Aquatic Pests Hotline
Ph: 02 4916 3877
Murray Barton Northern Territory Department of Resources Email Aquatic Biosecurity
Simon Smith Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment Email Simon Smith
Frank Keenan Queensland Biosecurity Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation Email Frank Keenan
Vic Neverauskas South Australia Biosecurity SA Email Vic Neverauskas

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

Please verify that you are not a robot.