The most common way for pests to be introduced into a marine ecosystem is via ocean-going vessels. The pests are either transported in the vessel’s ballast water and/or in marine growth on the vessels’ hulls (‘biofouling’).
Ballast water is pumped into a ship's ballast tanks to improve its stability. It is taken up or discharged when cargo is unloaded or loaded, or when the ship needs extra stability in turbulent conditions. A range of marine organisms can be taken up with the ballast water. Discharge of this water will then release these organisms into new areas where they may become invasive marine pests.
The Australian Government is responsible for the management and monitoring of ballast water exchange at the international border.
Biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic, plants and animals on vessel hulls and submerged surfaces. Over time many different types of organisms may attach themselves to the hull potentially including invasive marine pests.
Introduced marine pests are very likely to be first detected in ports, marinas and similar areas.
While there are only a few introduced marine pests established in Western Australia at present, there is a threat from the many pests found in south-east Asia and other parts of Australia. The shipping routes of many vessels coming to WA pass through these regions. It is therefore possible that more pests may become established in the State unless we work together.
We regularly inspect vessels with biofouling arriving from international, inter-state locations and within the State. Inspections must be conducted by suitably qualified personnel. To meet an increasing demand for inspectors we are developing a Certificate IV course, due to be launched by 2013 through the Challenger Institute of Technology, Fremantle. Further details will be announced soon.
How you can help
An ANZPAC industry workshop on biofouling management in the shipping and maritime sectors is taking place in Melbourne in May. Discover more.
Contact our Biosecurity Unit for further information.