Biosecurity net closes on marine invasions

Australian scientists and quarantine authorities are preparing to cast a virtual net around their island continent in a blockade against invasive marine species lurking in a thousand ports around the globe.

The virtual net is in the form of the worlds first ballast-water risk assessment plan for marine biological security designed to keep out invaders.

Dr Keith Hayes says the system considers factors such as ballast water origin, species risk and vessel risk, the potential for species to survive the journey, and tolerance to local port conditions.

"Effectively, we are creating the webbing which is the scientific basis for authorities to throw a net around the country," says Dr Hayes.

"In this project we have worked to translate the well-developed principles of industrial risk assessment and consider their use in the marine environment.

"The intention is to evaluate the risks from potential bio-invasions and then apply all the systems we know of to shrink the mesh and keep out unwanted visitors," he said.

Dr Hayes, a marine scientist from the Australian national science agency, CSIRO, was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Funded by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the shipping industry and CSIRO, the project is the latest initiative from government, science and industry to combat the transfer of foreign marine species. There are 170 known species now resident in Australian coastal waters. Fourteen of these are rated introduced pest species because of their potential to modify the marine ecosystem. 2/

One is the black-striped mussel that arrived in Darwin in 1999 and is related to the zebra mussel found in the United States Great Lakes. Management authorities in the Northern Territory were successful in ridding Darwin Harbour of the species using a 120 tonne chemical cocktail. The mussel is still ar

Contact: Craig Macaulay
CSIRO Australia

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