MarinePestPlan 2018-2023

​​​Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, 2018

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

  • outlines our national priorities
  • sets our strategic direction for investment over the next 5 years.

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, Water and the Environment (DAWE) coordinates the activities under the plan.

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

  • National Biosecurity Committee (NBC)
  • Marine Pest Sectoral Committee (MPSC).

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


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Our activities to achieve the 5 objectives in the plan. For more information on these activities, contact us.

As at November 2019. DAWE will aim to update progress every 6 months.

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

Activity 1.1

Implement nationally-consistent domestic ballast water regulations under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

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.

Activity 1.2

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (the Convention) regulates the treatment of ballast water to address concerns that ballast water facilitates the spreading of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens (IMO, 2004). Over the next five years the Convention requires the majority of trading ships to manage internationally sourced ballast water by installation and use of an on-board ballast water management systems (BWMS). Activity 1.2 has been designed in response to concerns that large volumes of chemically treated ballast water from BWMS will be released into Australian marine environments and to research environmental concerns arising from this transition in ballast water management.

The Commonwealth Government supports the work of the IMO to evaluate applications for approval of new BWMS to ensure all systems meet the required safety and environmental protection requirements prior to approval for use in ships visiting Australia. State and territory experts are also provided the opportunity to comment on applications for new BWMS to the IMO and contribute to Australia’s response to the IMO.

In 2017, DAWE initiated two projects to research potential environmental issues arising from BWMS. These include 1) the impact of treated ballast water on port water quality; 2) sampling and testing principles for disinfection by-products from BWMS. The results of these projects suggest that based on current shipping traffic BWMS are unlikely to present environmental issues. However, further work has been recommended to determine suitable trigger values for chemicals of concern, and undertake field sampling to help validate modelled results of these studies. The reports from this work are available on the ABARES Biosecurity sciences page.

Over the last 12 months the department has completed a pilot project for sampling BWMS on over 20 ships arriving in the port of Fremantle, WA. The results are intended to build knowledge and suggest priority amendments to the Convention as the majority of ships transition to the use of BWMS. Please contact the Marine Biosecurity unit at if you have further interest in this project.

Activity 1.3

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: DAWE is developing regulatory measures that 1) address unacceptable biofouling related biosecurity risk from vessels arriving in Australian territory; 2) are aligned with the direction set by the IMO.

DAWE released a Regulation Impact Statement to consult on policy options to improve Australian biofouling management requirements for international vessel arrivals.

The department consulted on three policy options, including the department’s preferred option to implement requirements for vessels to undertake proactive biofouling management consistent with the direction of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines.

Activity 1.4

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

Status: Not commenced

Summary: DAWE will aim to commence the review of the National Biofouling Management Guidelines in 2021 once the outcomes of the review of the IMO biofouling guidelines are known.  Both the outcomes of the final Australian biofouling policy and the IMO review will directly inform the review of the Australian Biofouling 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 as appropriate.

Status: Commenced

Summary: DAWE has developed a marine biosecurity theme for the International Biosecurity Intelligence System (IBIS) to improve how we gather and share information.

IBIS is an open-source automated information gathering and analysis tool that the department uses to gather biosecurity intelligence available online. An algorithm is being tested to improve automated sorting of articles found by IBIS.

The department will review further development of IBIS and its applicability for marine biosecurity purposes in early 2020.

Strengthen the national marine pest surveillance system (Objective 2)

Activity 2.1

Develop a national marine pest surveillance strategy.

Status: Complete

Summary: The National Marine Pest Surveillance Strategy was endorsed by MPSC at its May 2019 meeting and it has been 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.

The Marine Pest Surveillance Work-plan is currently under development and will guide implementation of the surveillance strategy.

Activity 2.2

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

Status: Complete

Summary: A market research company was engaged to identify marine pest observer groups relevant to passive surveillance, and to gather information on their knowledge, reporting behaviors 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 to inform activity 2.3 (see below). It also identified the qualities of resources that they would require.

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

The final report detailing the research is available on request.

Activity 2.3

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: Australia’s existing passive surveillance education and engagement material has been compiled and is available on the OceanWatch Website. A gaps analysis has identified areas where additional marine pest engagement material is required and MPSC is working to prioritise and develop appropriate materials to fill gaps and tailor materials to specific groups where practical.

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 following a workshop in 2016 that was attended by biosecurity officers and researchers with expertise in molecular biology. Molecular assays can provide significant cost and time advantages over traditional surveillance methods (such as visual surveys, traps and trawls) if their performance is known.

The guidelines provide a consistent framework for evaluating the performance of molecular assays for marine pest detection or identification. 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.

The guidelines were endorsed by MPSC in 2018, and have been used in validation of molecular tests for marine pests (see Activity 2.5).

Activity 2.5

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: Molecular assays have been validated for six established marine pests considered in the domestic ballast water risk assessment. 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.

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

The final reports for these two validation projects will be published on the Marine Pest Website in 2020.

Activity 2.6

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

Status: Ongoing

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 will be updated as required.

Activity 2.7

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: The National Introduced Marine Pest Information System (NIMPIS) is a publicly available database that publishes marine pest surveillance data. NIMPIS is being upgraded to include contemporary surveillance data, review the scientific information provided in the marine pest species profiles and make it more responsive on modern digital devices.

The national marine pest detection reporting procedures are also being reviewed to facilitate collection and publication of contemporary surveillance data.

NIMPIS will be relaunched in early 2020 and will be linked to the Marine Pest Website.

Activity 2.8

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

Status: Not commenced

Summary: N/A

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

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 support and national co-ordination as part of 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 in the program report.

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: Not commenced

This activity is on hold pending progress on other projects, including strengthening passive surveillance capability and updates and improvements to EMPPlan (Activities 3.4 and 3.5).

The 2018 marine pest simulation exercise program report (Activity 3.2) has identified additional training needs.

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 has been developed and agreed by MPSC. The new structure aims to provide better guidance for emergency responses and includes the following elements:

  • A marine pest management manual that provides guidance on elements of a response including disposal, destruction, clean up and treatment options.
  • Rapid Response Manuals (RRMs) that provide guidance on marine pests within broader taxonomic groups (e.g. crabs) rather than the current format where the RRMs focus on individual marine pest species.
  • A marine pest supplement for the Biosecurity Incident Management System. The document will incorporate content from the existing Biosecurity Incident Management System manual, and additional marine pest specific response guidance.

Activity 3.5

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: The first phase of updates to the Rapid Response Manuals (RRMs) is being implemented and the manuals will be republished in early 2020. Changes to the manuals include guidance on how to apply new biosecurity response powers under the Biosecurity Act (2015) as well as updates to the RRM for Mytilopsis sallei and Perna viridis based on lessons learnt from the P. viridis response near Weipa (2017-2018).

The second phase of updates to the RRM series will involve restructuring the manuals to provide guidance on marine pests within broader taxonomic groups.

Support marine pest biosecurity research and development (Objective 4)

Activity 4.1

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

Status: Not commenced

Summary: This activity will commence in early 2020.

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.

MBRA was established by the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

The Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and DAWE have developed draft terms of reference for the MBRA in consultation with Deakin University and Murdoch University.

Activity 4.3

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: Stakeholders from industry, universities and government biosecurity organisations are reviewing 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 reviews are being consolidated into a draft report that identifies the current understanding of marine pest impacts in Australia including key knowledge gaps. This project aims to consolidate concrete information on impacts of marine pests in Australia to assist in assessing response actions to marine pest incursions or spread.

Activity 4.4

Conduct risk analyses of marine pest vectors and pathways, and make recommendations for improved management.

Status: Not commenced

Summary: N/A

Activity 4.5

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: DAWE is using an online innovation platform to identify novel methods to treat biofouling in box-coolers of commercial ships. The challenge is open to public submissions, with the winning proposals being considered for further development as methods to address biosecurity risks associated with biofouling in niche-areas.

Additionally, DAWR has engaged an external provider to:

  • Identify internal seawater system component niches and associated biofouling
  • Identify materials and designs that affect treatments and treatment techniques
  • Perform a desktop analysis of treatment techniques (based on the findings of the two points above).

Engage stakeholders to better manage marine pest biosecurity (Objective 5)

Activity 5.1

Identify and build a profile of marine pest biosecurity stakeholders.

Status: Completed

Summary: DAWE has 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 that highlighted the need for establishing a national marine nest network.

The report identified the presence or absence of network structures that may support certain characteristics of an ‘ideal’ network that would support coordination, innovation or collaboration. The report was completed in March 2019.The report is available on the ABARES Biosecurity sciences page.

Activity 5.2

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: The MarinePestPlan 2018–2023 engagement strategy has been developed to align with the engagement objectives of both MPSC and MarinePestPlan 2013–2023.

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:

  • Activity 2.2 – ‘Investigate Australia’s current passive surveillance capability for marine pests and recommend possible improvements’
  • Activity 5.1 – ‘Identify marine pest stakeholders, and build a profile of Australia’s marine pest biosecurity ‘community’.

Activities which will deliver a targeted national campaign to improve awareness of marine pest biosecurity risks, management actions and shared responsibilities under Activity 5.3 will include:

  • Identification of high-risk stakeholder groups
  • Identification of barriers and drivers affecting stakeholder participation in marine pest activities
  • Collation, and review of existing social research, and behavior change strategies.

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 will continue to be updated as new marine pest biosecurity resources become available.

Activity 5.5

Establish an independent national marine pest network.

Status: Commenced

Summary: Options for establishing Marine Biosecurity Australia (MBA) are being investigated by DAWE. MBA is intended to develop a network of partnerships and collaboration and enable Australia to better identify, assess, communicate and manage risks of marine pests.

The analysis of Australia’s marine pest biosecurity stakeholder network (Activity 5.1) will enable the department to ensure the development of MBA will meet the needs of Australia’s marine pest biosecurity system.

The report will be used to inform the next steps for the development of a terms of reference for MBA to ensure it provides a benefit to communication and engagement with stakeholders across all aspects of marine biosecurity.