Our biosecurity scientists are working with other national and international institutions to develop pioneering tools and systems to reduce the introduction and impact of pests on our aquatic environments.
The first and most effective line of defence against aquatic pests is to prevent them entering our waters in the first place. The increase in vessel traffic coming into our waters presents the greatest threat from aquatic pests ‘hitch-hiking’ on vessels’ hulls and in their ballast water.
Our research is focusing on:
Developing improved methods for reducing pest presence on WA-bound vessels and in their internal systems. Recent research suggests that the sounds generated by vessels may influence the establishment of biofouling species on their hulls. We are collaborating with New Zealand scientists to better understand the influence of sound on larval survival and growth. Traditional approaches to this problem use anti-fouling chemicals that can damage the environment. This research aims to develop environmentally-friendly mechanisms to reduce vessel fouling.
Developing improved methods for removing pests on vessels in our marine waters. Currently in Western Australia, vessels must be removed from the water and ‘dry-docked’ for the removal of biofouling. This is to ensure pests can be collected without contaminating and spreading into the aquatic environment. This is expensive and disruptive to shipping schedules. We are therefore exploring mechanisms that will allow in-water removal of fouling while still complying with international biofouling cleaning guidelines. If successful, these methods could save industry millions of dollars and play a major role in preventing the spread of aquatic pests.
Collaborating with South Australian scientists to evaluate vessel wrapping using vessel encapsulation devices
as a tool to reduce biofouling. Our trials are currently focusing on recreational yachts.
Rapid detection of introduced aquatic pests is a key factor in preventing them from spreading.
Our research focuses on:
Understanding those pests which pose the greatest threat. We are developing a pest ‘hit-list’ of those most likely to enter and thrive in the Western Australian aquatic environment, causing serious economic, social and/or environmental impacts. Our hit-list includes marine pest species which may be introduced through shipping movements and freshwater pest species
which are generally released into freshwater lakes and rivers by people who keep fish as a hobby.
Developing cutting edge tools for the rapid identification of aquatic pests. Many pests look very similar to native species with only a few experts worldwide able to visually identify them. However, all species differ in their genetic material or DNA. Each organism’s DNA has a unique ‘barcode’, which allows us to identify the species without needing to even see it. We are participating in an international research project
to record these barcodes and assist with rapid DNA-based identification of all aquatic animals and plants.
Preventing the spread of aquatic pests
Pests can be very difficult to remove once established in the aquatic environment. Our research focuses on:
Developing aquatic pest control and eradication methods. For freshwater pests, this involves comparing methods of pest baiting, trapping, and removal which still allow native animals to survive. Once a pest has been removed, we continue to monitor the area to ensure the pests do not return. Our ultimate objective, working in partnership with other aquatic agencies, is to ensure the recovery of native species in areas where pests have had an impact.