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New Surveillance Program To Detect Marine Pests

4 October 2019

The Gladstone Harbour is set to have an extra line of defence from marine pests, thanks to a new surveillance program designed to detect introduced pests at their most critical stage.

The pilot program being introduced this week in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) focuses on the early detection of invasive marine pests. These are defined as animals and plants introduced to waters outside their natural range, which have the potential to establish and spread, resulting in economic or environmental harm

Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) Acting CEO Craig Walker said the program aims to identify marine pests before they become established and dispersed within our waterways.

“The new surveillance program will help us to detect introduced marine pests when they are still scarce and immature, before they cause significant damage to industry, infrastructure and the environment,” Mr Walker said.   

“The program involves the deployment of metal frames, known as settlement arrays, from four wharves within the Port of Gladstone and plankton tows to identify the presence of any introduced marine pests.

“This approach acts as an early warning system and uses novel molecular diagnostics to detect the introduced marine pests within Gladstone Harbour.”

Settlement arrays will be deployed from Boyne Smelter Wharf, Auckland Point Wharf, Fisherman’s Landing Wharf and Gladstone Marina.

Small plates attached to the frames provide a surface for marine ‘fouling’ organisms to settle and grow so that their DNA can be tested and analysed.

Plankton tows allow the collection of plankton samples by towing a conical mesh plankton net behind a vessel over a certain distance.

“Biosecurity is a major priority for us at GPC, with a high potential for translocation of marine pests due to the nature of shipping activity,” Mr Walker said.

“Marine pests can travel vast distances attached to vessels as biofouling or living in internal seawater systems such as bilge water, ballast water or water intake pipes.

“If these pests were to arrive in Queensland, they could affect seaport operations, fisheries resources, the economy, the environment and our ability to use and enjoy local marine and coastal areas.

“That’s why we are urging the community to not disturb or remove the marine monitoring equipment and to report any suspected pests to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.”

According to DAF, invasive pest species with the highest chance of arriving and establishing in Queensland waters include Asian green mussel, black-striped false mussel, Asian bag mussel, brown mussel, Harris mud crab, Chinese mitten crab and Japanese seaweed. 

To learn more about marine pests, visit www.qld.gov.au/environment/coasts-waterways/marine-pests.
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