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Ports have the potential to act as the point of entry for a new invasive or pest species to enter Australia and are a critical line of defence. Introduced species arriving on international vessels carry the potential for introduction of pests and diseases. Invasive species have the potential to harm Australia’s environment; impact human health and wellbeing; as well as damage Australian industries or infrastructure.
Protection of Australia’s biosecurity is a responsibility shared by Government (Federal and State), Industry and the Community. A range of activities are undertaken at the Port including:
- Inspections by Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) of high risk vessels and cargo for hitchhiker and other suspected biosecurity risks.
- Regular surveys or observations by Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment(DAWE), Biosecurity Queensland, the Port’s staff and Port Customers.
- Regular monitoring programs for a range of potential pests including Introduced Marine Pests, and terrestrial insects such as bees, ants and mosquitoes.
- Management and disposal of quarantine wastes.
- Treatment of standing water.
- Fumigation of cargo.
Asian Green Mussel
White Colonial Sea Squirt
Asian Bag Mussel
Giant Argrican Snail
Marmorated Stink Bug
Asian Honey Bee (right)
Asian Tiger Mosquito
Asian Gypsy Moth
First Point of Entry
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, all international vessels and goods that enter Australian territory are subject to biosecurity control and generally must enter ports determined as First Point of Entry. The Port of Townsville has been determined as a First Point of Entry.
All Port Customers have a responsibility to ensure their compliance with legislation and to have appropriate processes, measures and plans to manage the biosecurity risk of their operations and guarantee compliance with the First Point of Entry provisions, including:
- Holding a current and understood Biosecurity Incident Response Procedure.
- Providing sufficient biosecurity response equipment (including knockdown spray and spill kits with disinfectant) to respond to an identified or potential biosecurity risk.
- Ensuring staff working with international arrivals have completed the Seaports Biosecurity Awareness eLearning package.
- Engaging with a federally approved waste provider for the management of biosecurity waste discharged from the vessel and biosecurity waste generated from the onshore operations at the port.
For further information regarding first point of entry obligations please refer to DAWE at https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/avm/vessels/first-point-entry-and-non-first-point-entry.
Varroa Mite Detection in Townsville
Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) have been detected in Townsville in 2016, 2019 and 2020. The 2016, 2019 and 2020 incidents have been formally declared eradicated thanks to the work of the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program.
Three separate detections were discovered in nests of feral Asian honey bees at the Port of Townsville. While all the nests were destroyed by Commonwealth and State Biosecurity organisations, it is important to make sure there are not any more nests in the future.
Varroa mites pose a serious threat to Australia’s European honey bee population and could severely impact crop pollination and honey production if allowed to spread. The National Varroa Mite Eradication Program aims to wipe out the Asian honey bee and the varroa mite.
The 2019/2020 program has racked up some amazing statistics to ensure Townsville and the rest of Australia are varroa mite free including:
- 21,000 surveillance observations described, and GPS tracked
- 1,059 public reports of bees investigated (all negative for AHB)
- 757 checks conducted on sentinel hives
- 247 feral colonies of European honey bee located and risk assessed
- 77,296 pieces of collateral distributed to residential addresses within key surveillance zones
- 4,510 individual collections of Rainbow bee-eater pellets, comprising over 139,000 individual pellets which were then checked in a laboratory for evidence of Asian honey bee.
- 880,000 wings belonging to honey bees were examined and identified by program entomologists
- NVMEP staff conducted general and targeted floral sweep netting activities walked a total of 37,975km throughout the life of the program within the Townsville LGA. This is more than the circumference around the coast line of Australia (22,293km)
Bees can enter Australia on vessels or in freight which can spread bee-related pests and diseases. We are asking the transport industry to check all loads before, during and after travel.
Reports can be made by phoning 13 25 23 and more information is available here.
Introduced Marine Pest Monitoring
Since 2019, the Port of Townsville has participated in a state-wide marine biosecurity pilot program managed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Queensland Seaport eDNA Surveillance (Q SEAS) program uses DNA analysis to detect the presence of invasive marine pest species.
Surveillance equipment, known as settlement arrays, are deployed at four locations throughout the port environment. Small PVC plates are attached to each array, to provide a surface for marine organisms to settle and grow. The settlement arrays are retrieved after a two-month deployment period and the DNA of the ‘fouling’ organisms on each plate are collected and tested in the laboratory for the presence of marine pests.
In November 2021, the Q-SEAS program won the Industry Award at the Australian Biosecurity Awards.
Thanks to our Q-SEAS Partners: Biosecurity Queensland, Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, Gladstone Ports Corporation, North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation and Ports North. It is wonderful to foster healthier marine environments in collaboration with partners.
White Colonial Sea Squirt Detection in Townsville
The exotic white colonial sea squirt (Didemnum perlucidum) was detected in the Townsville Marine Precinct in 2020 through the Queensland Seaports e-DNA Surveillance (Q-SEAS) program. There have been confirmed detections of white colonial sea squirt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Townsville, Airlie Beach, Abbot Point, Mackay and Brisbane.
It’s not considered feasible to eradicate this pest but we want to try and slow the spread in Queensland. Biosecurity Queensland is requesting boat owners and marine infrastructure managers to maintain regular maintenance and cleaning of their vessels and structures to prevent spread, this includes:
- looking out for attached pests.
- cleaning boats and removable infrastructure out of the water (in a dry dock or slipway).
- application and maintenance of effective antifouling paint.
- checking and cleaning all gear and equipment before moving between locations.
- seeking advice before undertaking maintenance or cleaning of fixed in-water infrastructure.
The sea squirt is white in colour and fouls submerged and floating infrastructure such as pylons, pontoons, boats and buoys and can overgrow native marine species.
If you suspect you have seen white colonial sea squirt, report your findings on 13 25 23. More information is available on https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/land-management/health-pests-weeds-diseases/pests/invasive-animals/prohibited/white-colonial-sea-squirt
Useful Biosecurity Links:
- Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/australia)
- Biosecurity Queensland https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/biosecurity
- Seaports Biosecurity Awareness eLearning package http://www.agriculture.gov.au/Documents/seaports-biosecurity-elearning/index.html