MarinePestPlan 2018–2023

​​​Marine Pest Sectoral Committee, Final Report, 2023

Australia’s national strategic plan for marine pest biosecurity. The plan:

  • outlines our national priorities for marine pest biosecurity
  • sets our strategic direction for potential investment from 2018-2023.

There are five objectives in the plan:

  1. Minimise the risk of marine pest introductions, establishment and spread
  2. Strengthen the national marine pest surveillance system
  3. Australia’s preparedness and response capability for marine pest introductions
  4. Support marine pest biosecurity research and development
  5. Engage stakeholders to better manage marine pest biosecurity.

Each objective is supported by activities that address specific marine biosecurity issues.

Who is responsible

MarinePestPlan 2018–2023 is a joint initiative of key marine pest biosecurity stakeholders.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) coordinates the implementation of activities under the plan, under the direction of MPSC and partners.

After consultation with industries and other stakeholders these activities are endorsed by the:

  • Marine Pest Sectoral Committee (MPSC)

The plan is for use by government, maritime industries, non-government organisations and researchers.


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Objective 1: Minimise the risk of marine pest introductions, establishment and spread

Activity 1.1

Minimise the risk of marine pest introductions, establishment and spread

Status: Complete

Summary: Amendments to the ballast water provisions in the Biosecurity Act 2015 came into effect on 8 September 2017. The amendments enabled Australia to ratify and implement the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the Convention) and introduce requirements for ships moving between Australian ports. The requirements for the Convention have now been fully implemented. Refinement of the risk management measures is ongoing.

Activity 1.2

Ensure the use of ballast water management systems in Australian waters meets accepted environmental standards.

Status: Complete

Summary: The Ballast Water Management Convention requires most trading ships to manage ballast water use of an on-board ballast water management system (BWMS). Activity 1.2 addresses concerns related to the potential release of chemically treated ballast water into the Australian marine environment, for those systems that use active substances.

A review of the effectiveness of the Convention, including proposals for amendments, is underway by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee. The department, with input from state and territory experts, continues to support the work of the IMO to evaluate applications for approval of new BWMS’s, to ensure all systems meet the required safety and environmental protection requirements.

The department continues to require all Australian flagged vessels installing a BWMS to undergo a commissioning test, including evaluation of the self-monitoring equipment and sensors related to the quality of discharge water. Acceptable test results are required before the vessel can be certified to utilise a BWMS.

The department has conducted detailed testing on ships arriving in the port of Fremantle, WA, Karratha, WA, Gladstone, QLD and Sydney, NSW. A summary paper of these projects was submitted to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO. Results show inconsistent compliance in the > 50-micron size class, which is broadly consistent with similar studies submitted by Canada (MEPC 77/4/3) and Singapore (MEPC 75/INF.11).

Activity 1.3

Investigate regulatory options to manage biosecurity risks associated with biofouling on vessels.

Status: Complete

Summary: New Australian Government requirements to manage biofouling on international vessels arriving in Australia began on 15 June 2022. Operators of all vessels subject to biosecurity control are required to provide information on how biofouling has been managed prior to arriving in Australian territorial seas. This information is reported through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF) Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS). This new policy approach is consistent with the direction of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2011 Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species.

In parallel, DAFF is actively engaged in the current review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines (see Activity 1.4) and will ensure Australian legislation is consistent with the intent of the IMO Guidelines.

Activity 1.4

Review the National Biofouling Management Guidelines for marine sectors and update as required.

Status: Not commenced

Summary: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) is participating via an International Maritime Organization (IMO) Correspondence Group on a Review of the 2011 IMO Biofouling Guidelines. The target completion date of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines is 2023.

DAFF will aim to commence the review of the National Biofouling Management Guidelines in 2023, once the outcomes of the IMO biofouling guidelines review are known. The Australian biofouling management requirements (related to Activity 1.3) and the IMO Biofouling Guidelines review will inform the review of the National Biofouling Management Guidelines.

Activity 1.5

Investigate the benefits of an intelligence-gathering framework to monitor marine pest risk pathways and expand the International Biosecurity Intelligence System (IBIS) as appropriate.

Status: Complete

Summary: Between 2017 and 2019, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) developed, moderated and tested a marine biosecurity sub-site for IBIS to investigate whether it could be used effectively to gather and share marine pest biosecurity information.

DAFF concluded that there was not a strong case for the use of IBIS for marine pest biosecurity intelligence. The tool continues to be used by DAFF for other biosecurity purposes.

Objective 2: Strengthen the national marine pest surveillance system

Activity 2.1

Develop a national marine pest surveillance strategy.

Status: Complete

Summary: The National Marine Pest Surveillance Strategy was developed by MPS committee members in May 2019 and is published on the Marine Pest Website Surveillance Page. The strategy aims to enhance marine pest biosecurity by outlining priority requirements for enhancing surveillance of marine pests in Australia. It also aims to improve coordination and implementation of these surveillance activities.

A marine pest surveillance work-plan has been developed (Activity 2.9) and will guide implementation of the surveillance strategy over 2021–2026.

Activity 2.2

Investigate Australia’s current passive surveillance capability for marine pests and recommend possible improvements.

Status: Complete

Summary: Research was undertaken to identify marine pest observer groups relevant to passive surveillance, and to gather information on their knowledge, reporting behaviours and motivations. The research involved a literature review, a series of qualitative interviews of key marine pest stakeholders and a survey (including a choice model) of the public. The research identified groups and their level of interest and capability to engage in passive surveillance activities and provided information on the education and engagement needs of user groups. It also identified the types of resources that they would require.

This research is informing development of appropriate materials for potential passive surveillance groups to enhance passive surveillance capabilities (Activity 2.3).

The final report detailing the research, completed in 2019, is available on request.

Activity 2.3

Promote tailored education and awareness materials to engage marine pest observer groups in passive surveillance activities.

Status: Complete

Summary: Australia’s existing passive surveillance education and engagement material for marine pests has been compiled and is available on the OceanWatch Website. A gap analysis completed in early 2020 identified four specific sectors for marine pest awareness raising: ports, marinas, divers and aquaculture. Materials on raising marine pest awareness such as posters, fact sheets and digital materials have been developed for use by these four sectors to increase education and passive surveillance on marine pests among key stakeholders.

MPSC has successfully engaged with the ports, marinas, divers and aquaculture sectors and completed passive surveillance materials for these groups, completing Activity 2.3.

Activity 2.4

Develop validation guidelines for marine pest molecular detection methods.

Status: Complete

Summary: Guidelines for development and validation of assays for marine pests were developed in 2018. Molecular assays can provide significant cost and time advantages over traditional surveillance methods (such as visual surveys, traps and trawls) but their performance must be demonstrated.

The guidelines provide a consistent framework for evaluating the performance of molecular assays for marine pest detection or identification (Activity 2.5). Through application of the guidelines, the suitability of an assay for a defined purpose can be understood and assay results can be interpreted with greater confidence, supporting consequent decision-making.

Activity 2.5

Validate molecular detection methods (including sampling methodology) for selected high-priority marine pest species.

Status: Complete

Summary: Molecular assays have been validated for eight established marine pests considered in the domestic ballast water risk assessment. These species are Asterias amurensis, Arcuatula senhousia, Carcinus maenas, Crassostrea gigas, Sabella spallanzanii, Undaria pinnatifida, Varicorbula gibba and Mya japonica. This work will assist in the cost-effective implementation of a domestic ballast water exemption scheme.

Molecular assays are also being validated for seven exotic marine pest species that are considered high risk if they were to become established in Australia. Additional analysis needs to be done, although data gathered has contributed to tests for exotic species already. An additional validation for Mytella strigata has been completed and was published in 2022. The development and validation of molecular assays for introduced Didemnum species has also been complete

Validated tests will provide confidence in the sensitivity and specificity of molecular tools for detection of marine pests.

Activity 2.6

Audit, maintain and share a database of marine pest identification capability.

Status: Complete

Summary: A database of Australian scientists with expertise in the identification of marine pests has been compiled. The database is available upon request from

The database is being maintained and updated as required.

Activity 2.7

Review surveillance information management needs and ensure an appropriate information system is in place.

Status: Complete

Summary: The National Introduced Marine Pest Information System (NIMPIS) is a publicly available database that provides information to support management of marine pests and publishes surveillance data from around Australia. The NIMPIS platform was updated in 2020.

Updates of existing species profiles, publication of new surveillance data and improvements to functionality are ongoing.

A new species profile for Mya japonica is under development.

Activity 2.8

Perform an audit of marine pest surveillance activities and data sets relevant to Australia.

Status: Commenced

Summary: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), completed an audit of marine pest surveillance activities in Commonwealth places in late 2022. This activity also closely aligns with Activity 3.2 of the Surveillance Strategy 2021-2025 – Review marine pest surveillance activities and data sets relevant to Australia.

The audit has identified a potential range extension of two introduced marine pest species.

Activity 2.9

Develop the marine pest surveillance strategy work-plan

Status: Complete

Summary: A work plan has been developed to guide the implementation of the National Marine Pest Surveillance Strategy 2021–2026 (Activity 2.1). The work plan was endorsed by MPSC in October 2021, and implementation of activities commenced.

Surveillance strategy progress will be reported biannually to MPSC and published on the Marine Pest Website.

Objective 3: Australia’s preparedness and response capability for marine pest introductions

Activity 3.1

Plan and implement a national program of marine pest emergency response exercises.

Status: Complete

Summary: Two national marine pest emergency exercises were held in 2018 to improve capability in responding to marine pest incursions.

The first exercise was held in Canberra, with the Consultative Committee on Introduced Marine Pest Emergencies (CCIMPE) members and representatives focusing on improving their knowledge of CCIMPE roles and responsibilities. CCIMPE provides national co-ordination for marine pest emergency responses. 

The second exercise was a simulation response at Sydney Harbor and involved government and industry representatives. It investigated the issues involved in mounting a response in a busy port with multiple users and other stakeholders.

Both exercises were successful in enhancing the biosecurity response skills of attendees and recommendations for potential future exercises were identified (Activity 3.3) in the program report. Further exercises informed by these recommendations will be conducted as resources become available.

Jurisdictions (and New Zealand) are encouraged to continue inviting national participation in local exercises.

Activity 3.2

Develop a benefit–cost analysis framework to guide response efforts in the event of a nationally significant marine pest incursion.

Status: Complete

Summary: Guidelines for a benefit-cost analysis for marine pests were completed in 2018. The document provides guidance on how to estimate the potential impacts of a marine pest incursion and estimate the cost of a response aimed at mitigating those impacts. The analysis is an important decision-making tool to determine whether it is cost effective to undertake response activities. The guidelines include a case study to demonstrate how the costings can be developed.

A benefit-cost analysis is one of the requirements for biosecurity responses to be considered for national cost-sharing under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement. The guidelines are intended to assist biosecurity agencies in fulfilling this requirement.

The guidelines are available on the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) website.

Activity 3.3

Identify marine pest emergency response training needs.

Status: Complete

Summary: An emergency response training program has been developed based on consultation with the Marine Pest Sectoral Committee and recommendations coming out of marine pest emergency response training activities in 2018 (see Activity 3.1). The program includes plans for simulation exercises and workshops on Australia’s biosecurity response arrangements.

Activity 3.4

Review the national Emergency Marine Pest Plan (EMPPlan) framework.

Status: Complete

Summary: The Emergency Marine Pest Plan (EMPPlan) is a series of manuals that describes Australia’s agreed technical and policy approach for responding to marine pest incursions. A revised structure of EMPPlan was developed and agreed to by MPSC in 2018. The new structure (Activity 3.5) provides clearer guidance for emergency responses and includes the following elements:

  • Response manuals that provide guidance on marine pests within broader taxonomic groups, rather than the current format where the response manuals focus on individual marine pest species.
  • A marine pest management manual that provides guidance on elements of a response (in production).
  • A marine pest version of the Biosecurity Incident Management System manual (completed).

Activity 3.5

Plan and implement procedures to develop and update the EMPPlan rapid response manuals and related guidance materials.

Status: Commenced


The response manual for invasive marine crabs (to replace the RRM for Carcinus maenas) has been published.

The Response manual for invasive marine bivalves (to replace the RRM for Mytilopsis sallei and Perna viridis) is under development and expected to be published in 2023.

A response manual for invasive marine ascidian species is being planned.

The Biosecurity Incident Management System: Marine pest version has been published. The manual provides general guidance in management of biosecurity incidents and biosecurity response operations, with the addition of operational considerations that are unique to marine biosecurity responses.

A marine pest biosecurity management manual is currently being developed. The manual will provide detailed guidance on aspects of marine pest biosecurity responses, such as destruction, containment and decontamination of marine pests, dispersal modelling and vessel movement traceability. The manual will be published on the Marine Pest Website once completed.

Objective 4: Support marine pest biosecurity research and development

Activity 4.1

Periodically review the national marine pest biosecurity research and development priorities.

Status: Complete

Summary: This activity commenced in early 2021. Representatives of research organisations were contacted with a request for input on progress and gaps. MPSC is currently considering any additional R&D priorities that may not have been captured fully.

Activity 4.2

Promote research coordination through the national marine pest research network.

Status: Commenced

Summary: Marine Biosecurity Research Australia (MBRA) is a network of organisations working to improve Australia’s marine pest biosecurity through collaboration on research.

MBRA provides greater access to expertise, infrastructure and collaboration across Australia, to help deliver world-class scientific research on marine biosecurity for Australia. The network is considering opportunities to further facilitate this collaboration. MPSC is supporting MBRA to promote marine pest research coordination and collaboration.

MBRA is a subset of the Marine Biosecurity Australia network.

Activity 4.3

Review the economic, environmental and social impacts of marine pests in Australia.

Status: Complete

Summary: Stakeholders from industry, universities and government biosecurity organisations reviewed the economic, environmental and social impacts of marine pests in Australia. Detailed reviews of the impacts of sixteen established marine pest species have been completed and peer reviewed.

The review found that, for most of the sixteen reviewed species, there is a notable lack of data or other evidence of environmental, economic, or social impacts, whether negative or positive. For a small number of species where impacts were identified, these were found to be positive, negative or sometimes both. Positive impacts relate to those occasions where species provide economic benefits.

MPSC did not endorse the final report as an MPSC publication as there was concern over the presentation of some opinions that do not reflect current policies, and disagreement over some of the statements made in the front and back text. However, members agreed that the document was a useful source of information and thanked the task group assembled to write the report for the considerable amount of work that went into it.

Activity 4.4

Make recommendations and implement measures to improve management of marine pest vectors and pathways.

Status: Not commenced

Summary: This activity was delayed due to implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments and the development and implementation of the Australian Biofouling Management Regulations (Activity 1.1 and 1.3). This activity will not be completed within the MarinePestPlan 2018-2023 implementation period.

Note: the name of this activity has been changed (as agreed at MPSC 19, November 2020) to clarify scope.

Activity 4.5

Assess the effectiveness of current management options for biofouling in niche areas.

Status: Commenced

Summary: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has initiated multiple projects that address management options for biofouling in the niche areas of ships.

  • In 2018, a public online challenge sought to identify novel methods to treat biofouling in box-coolers of commercial ships, with the winning proposals considered for further development.
  • During 2017–2018 DAFF commissioned testing of a draft framework for the management of biofouling in internal niches, developed by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Field testing of the framework, and further examination of the availability, uptake and efficacy of in-water treatment options for internal niches, is needed.
  • In 2019–2020, DAFF and New Zealand MPI investigated the impact of biofouling on the operational performance of internal seawater systems of ships. DAWE distributed a questionnaire to shipping agents to understand the biofouling impacts and management strategies currently used by vessel operators.
  • DAFF is contributing the review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines (Activity 1.4).

Objective 5: Engage stakeholders to better manage marine pest biosecurity

Activity 5.1

Identify and build a profile of marine pest biosecurity stakeholders.

Status: Complete

Summary: The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) commissioned a social network analysis (SNA) for Australia’s marine biosecurity network, including information and resource sharing relationships in order to support improved communication with current and potential stakeholders. This activity addresses a recommendation of the 2015 Review of National Marine Pest Biosecurity (Activity 5.5).

The SNA report identified the presence or absence of network structures and their ability to support coordination, innovation or collaboration. The report was completed in March 2019 (ABARES) and established that there are significant networks in place. Further network development may be desirable in some areas.

Activity 5.2

Develop a national stakeholder engagement strategy for MarinePestPlan 2018–2023 and the Marine Pest Sectoral Committee.

The engagement strategy was endorsed by the committee in May 2019.

Status: Complete

Summary: The MarinePestPlan 2018–2023 engagement strategy has been developed to align with the engagement objectives of both MPSC and MarinePestPlan 2018–2023.

The engagement strategy was endorsed by the committee in May 2019 and is currently being implemented.

Activity 5.3

Design a targeted national campaign to improve awareness of marine pest biosecurity risks, management actions and shared responsibilities.

Status: Commenced

Summary: The development and delivery of a national marine pest awareness campaign relies upon the delivery of outcomes of a number of activities in the Marine Pest Plan 2018–2023, including Activities 2.2, 2.3, 5.1 and 5.5.

This activity aims to design simple and consistent national messaging for marine pest awareness, focussing on digital mediums. It will also explore opportunities to use and adapt existing materials. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) communications specialists and the National Biosecurity Communication Engagement Network (NBCEN) are collaborating to provide direction and specialist advice to progress this activity and have completed a Communications Strategy. Progress of this activity will be dependent on resourcing for developing the national awareness campaign.

Activity 5.4

Review, update and maintain the website.

Status: Complete

Summary: The updated Marine Pest Website was relaunched in February 2019. The website platform was updated to make it more responsive to use on mobile devices, while the layout of the site was restructured to improve usability by grouping web content based on target stakeholder groups.

The website is updated progressively.

Activity 5.5

Establish an independent national marine pest network.

Status: Complete

Summary: This activity addresses a recommendation of the 2015 Review of National Marine Pest Biosecurity proposed the establishment of a national marine pest network to develop partnerships, improve collaboration and enable Australia to better identify, assess, communicate and manage risks of marine pests.

Options for establishing a national marine pest network have been investigated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and informed by the 2019 analysis of Australia’s marine pest biosecurity stakeholder network (Activity 5.1). Activities are currently underway.

The establishment of an independent network was not considered a priority for resource allocation. Other Marine Pest Plan activities were progressed to improve communication and engagement with stakeholders across marine biosecurity.