Key milestones in the management of marine pests in Australia

Increasing numbers of pest detections during the 1980s and 1990s

Northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis) was first detected in Australia in the early 1980s. Originally introduced to the Derwent River estuary through either hull fouling or ballast water discharge, it has now spread along the eastern Tasmanian coastline to Banks Strait.

In 1995 it was identified in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, where it reached a population of approximately 30 million within two years.

Japanese seaweed or wakame (Undaria pinnatifidia) was found in 1988 near Triabunna on Tasmania's east coast. It is believed that the seaweed was first introduced to Tasmania in ballast water or as biofouling on international vessels but was then spread along the coast by fishing and recreational boats.

An infestation of the exotic black-striped mussel (Mytilopsis sallei) was discovered in Darwin marinas in late March 1999. The Northern Territory Government immediately implemented an eradication campaign. This was one of the few successful eradications of an established marine pest population in the world. More information on the black striped-mussel outbreak in Darwin

Voluntary ballast water management requirements

Australia introduced voluntary ballast water management arrangements in 1991 for ships entering Australian waters.

Triggers for a national approach to marine pest prevention and management

The black-striped mussel outbreak in Darwin highlighted the need for an integrated approach to prevent and manage marine pest incursions.

A National Taskforce was convened under the Standing Committee on Conservation and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture in 1999. The National Taskforce report made recommendations for immediate action and longer-term reform of the prevention and management of marine pest incursions.

Development of the National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions

Coordination group established

The National Introduced Marine Pests Coordination Group (NIMPCG) was set up in 2000 to develop detailed reform measures that comprise the National System for the Prevention and Management of Introduced Marine Pest Incursions (the National System). 

Chaired by the Department of Agriculture, NIMPCG comprised representatives from the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments, marine industries, scientists and environmental organisations.

International ballast water legislation

In July 2001 the Australian Government introduced requirements for the management of internationally sourced ballast water on all ships arriving from overseas.  These requirements are implemented through the Quarantine Act 1908 and administered by the Department of Agriculture.

High level working group established

The High Level Officials Working Group (HLG) was established by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council in 2002 to advise on the most appropriate governance, funding and legislative arrangements for the National System. These arrangements are detailed in the HLG Report 2003 which is available on request from the Department of Agriculture.

Victoria introduces ballast water management requirements

In 2004 Victoria introduced ballast water management requirements for ships entering Victorian ports from other Australian ports.

Intergovernmental Agreement signed

The recommendations of the HLG Report were used as the basis of the 2005 Intergovernmental Agreement on a National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pests Incursions (Marine IGA) which was to be underpinned by a risk management approach. 

The Marine IGA outlined the roles and responsibilities of signatories for implementing the National System and the arrangements for the oversight, coordination and evaluation of the National System.

The Marine IGA was signed in 2005 by the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and all state governments, except New South Wales, with all parties agreeing on the management measures to be implemented under the National System.

International Ballast Water Management Convention

In 2005, Australia signed the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, subject to ratification. The convention was developed through the International Maritime Organization and aims to prevent the international spread of harmful aquatic organisms by ballast water and sediments.

Australia is looking to ratify the convention as part of the process of developing national ballast water management arrangements.   

Australia’s own ballast water requirements are consistent with the convention.

Release of online marine pest management resources

In 2009, the National System launched the marine pest website, a marine pest identification guide and a series of national biofouling management guidelines for five vessels sectors (recreational vessels, commercial fishing vessels, non-trading vessels, commercial vessels and the petroleum production and exploration industry).

These were followed by the 2010 release of the 'Australian marine pest mornitoring manual' and the 'Australian marine pest mornitoring guidelines'. These documents describe the nationally agreed processes, procedures and standards for marine pest monitoring programs in Australian waters.

Change to governance arrangements

In 2011, the Marine Pest Sectoral committee (MPSC) replaced NIMPCG as the body responsible for the National System. MPSC is comprised of representatives from the Australian government, each state government and the Northern Territory. Industry and environmental input is achieved through an industry consultation group. MPSC publishes an electronic communiqué following each meeting.

In 2012, the Marine IGA was superceded by the COAG-approved Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity and the National Environment biosecurity Response Agreement.