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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Vessels and ports

​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 vessel's hull (‘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.

photo of  a vessel hull covered in biofouling

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 and interstate locations, and within the State. Inspections must be conducted by suitably qualified personnel. To meet an increasing demand for inspectors we have developed a Certificate IV course that runs at the Challenger Institute of Technology, Fremantle.

How you can help

  • Learn how to identify marine and estuarine pests, and distinguish them from native species.
  • ​Learn which species we list as introduced marine pests by checking the Western Australian prevention list for Introduced Marine Pests.
  • Report pests to the FishWatch number on 1800 815 507 or email
  • Prevent marine pests hitching a ride on your vessel with good vessel maintenance and effective antifouling. We recommend you:
    • regularly clean your boat’s hull, keeping fouling to the minimum of a light slime layer;
    • thoroughly apply antifouling paint and keep it in good condition;
    • ensure your hull is clean before you travel to a new area of WA;
    • inspect areas on your boat that retain water in case they are harbouring marine life; and
    • clean and dry equipment like ropes and pots before using them in a new location.

Moorings pose a biosecurity risk to Western Australia's aquatic environment, as they can be a stepping stone for invasive marine species (IMS) to reach new locations where they do not naturally occur.

Follow these two simple steps as set out in the moorings brochure to prevent the spread of aquatic pests:

  • Regularly check your mooring and mooring components for any unusual species.
  • Report any unusual species found by contacting FishWatch on 1800 815 507 or through the free WA PestWatch app, which can be downloaded from iTunes and Google Play. 

Biofouling management workshop

The second ANZPAC Workshop on Biofouling Management for Sustainable Shipping will be held in September 2015, in Melbourne. The workshop will bring together representatives from maritime industries, governments and research organisations to identify, promote and develop effective and practical management strategies that will encourage sustainable shipping with minimal environmental impact

Contact our Biosecurity Unit for further information.    

Last modified: 4/08/2015 3:39 PM



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