Ensuring biosecurity risks don’t sail into Australia

7 July 2020

While Australia’s biosecurity system helps to manage risks associated with the movement of vessels, yacht and boat owners and vessel operators also have a key role to play.

The Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Lyn O’Connell, said Australia has had a number of recent instances where yachts and vessels have arrived carrying materials that presented a biosecurity risk.

Around 500 non-commercial boats/yachts and 19 000 commercial vessels arrive in Australia each year and many of these have the potential to carry exotic pests and diseases,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Just recently biosecurity officers found a live gecko, an exotic ant, a spider and termites during an inspection of a yacht arriving into Darwin.

“Live geckos are a risk because they may carry pests or disease that could affect our unique native reptiles. Exotic ants, spiders and termites are a risk because they could damage infrastructure, affect our homes and way of life and damage our natural environment.

“An Asian gypsy moth’s egg mass was also recently discovered during a routine vessel inspection on a bulk carrier vessel arriving into Australia.

“The moth’s caterpillars feed on the leaves of more than 600 species of trees, such as oak, birch, aspen, eucalyptus, holly, rose, fruit trees and ornamental plants.

“The spread of exotic pests and diseases, like this moth and its larvae, could have devastating impacts on our agribusiness and horticultural industries.

"These stowaway pests are small and hide well. Sailors should keep an eye out for them and report before or on arrival anything they see.

“The Australian Government is always exploring opportunities for yachts to help manage the associated biosecurity risks.

“Coral Sea Marina (Airlie Beach) is now a first point of entry for non-commercial vessels.

“First points of entry are ports that have facilities and procedures that are critical to prevent pests and diseases entering and establishing in Australia.

“This means international yachts and superyachts are now able to have their first Australian port of call in Airlie Beach.

“Following recent investment by the Northern Territory Government, the Port of Darwin is again a first point of entry for yachts.

“There are strict biosecurity conditions for all boats that arrive into Australia, including entering through a designated first point of entry, mandatory reporting and inspection by biosecurity officers.

“All vessel operators, both recreational and professional, should familiarise themselves with Australia’s biosecurity and reporting requirements.

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and together we can ensure Australia remains free from some of the world’s most damaging pests and diseases.”

More information about biosecurity requirements for non-commercial vessels is available at: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/avm/vessels/non-commercial-vessels#what-happens-when-you-arrive-in-australia