The marine pest threat

Introduced marine pests threaten our enjoyment of many coastal recreational activities including fishing, sailing, boating and scuba diving. They also threaten the viability of our tourism, fishing and seafood industries and reduce the operating efficiency of vessels.

What are introduced marine pests?

Introduced marine pests are marine plants or animals that are not native to Australia but have been introduced by human activities such as shipping. They have the potential to significantly impact our marine industries and our environment.

Australia has over 250 introduced marine species. Fortunately most remain relatively harmless but some, such as the northern Pacific seastar, have become aggressive pests.

Several crabs, mussels, seastars and seaweeds have become marine pests in various locations. These species have had significant impacts on marine ecosystems and marine industries.

What do they do?

If introduced marine pests become established in Australia, they can have a big impact on our coastal areas and way of life, including:

  • threatening to wipe out native marine life
  • damaging the attractiveness and value of our coastal areas
  • threatening our local economy
  • causing serious human illnesses.

More information on the impacts of marine pests

How do they get here?

Marine pests are great hitchhikers. They can attach themselves as biofouling to boat hulls, anchor chains, fishing gear, recreational equipment and internal boat compartments or they may travel in any seawater system on a boat including inside pipes and in bilge and ballast water.

Marine pests are not selective. They will take advantage of any vessel big or small, from yachts to fishing boats to commercial ships to oil rigs.

What are we doing to stop them?

Australia is responding to the threat from marine pests. Governments, marine industries, scientists and conservation groups are working together to develop a comprehensive set of measures under the National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions (the National System).

What can you do?

Because marine pests aren’t fussy about how they get here, or how they spread once they are here, everyone who uses the marine environment in Australia, whether for recreation or business, can play an important role in helping reduce the threat.

This can be a simple as:

  • keeping your vessel and equipment clean and well maintained, paying particular attention to hard to get at areas
  • ensuring your antifouling is up to date - reapply at the shorter end of the period recommended by the manufacturer
  • remaining vigilant – if you see something unusual, report it to your relevant state or territory authority
  • complying with all Commonwealth or state regulations relating to marine pests.