MarinePestPlan 2018–2023

​​​Marine Pest Sectoral Committee, 2018

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 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 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 National Biosecurity Committee (NBC).

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


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Collectively with MPSC and partners we aim to achieve activities outlined under the 5 objectives in the plan. For more information on these activities, contact us.

As at October 2021. DAWE will aim to publish progress as reported to MPSC 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. 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: Ongoing

Summary: The Convention requires the majority of trading ships to manage ballast water by installation and use of an on-board ballast water management system (BWMS). Activity 1.2 addresses concerns that for some types of BWMS, large volumes of chemically treated ballast water would be released into Australian marine environments.

The Commonwealth Government supports the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to evaluate applications for approval of new BWMS to ensure all systems meet the required safety and environmental protection requirements. State and territory experts are provided the opportunity to comment on applications. Over the last reporting period one system (FlowSafe BWMS) has had its application for Final Approval rejected.

DAWE supports the Experience Building Phase (EBP) of the Convention, including the provision of data to the IMO from samples taken from BWMS use in Australian ports.  Over the past two years sampling projects have identified some issues in the treatment efficacy in the largest size class of organisms (≥ 50 µm), and the management of total residual oxidants discharged from vessels.

In the 2021/22 financial year a project has started to sample BWMS in the port of Gladstone, QLD. Information from this project will be submitted to the World Maritime University for analysis in the context of the EBP. 

Australia has reviewed contingency measure procedures and expects to finalise and implement a revised policy for ballast water management contingency measures by the end of 2021.

Activity 1.3

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: DAWE completed public consultation on options for managing the biosecurity risks associated with biofouling for internationally arriving vessels in mid 2019, through a consultation regulation impact statement. DAWE is currently finalising the preferred regulatory approach via a decision regulation impact statement (D-RIS). DAWE will provide the D-RIS for government approval in 2021.

In parallel, DAWE is actively engaged in the current review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines (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: DAWE is working with the IMO on revision of the IMO biofouling guidelines. A draft skeleton of the revised guidelines was provided to a meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response in March 2021.

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

DAWE 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 DAWE for other biosecurity purposes.

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 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: Commenced

Australia’s existing passive surveillance education and engagement material has been compiled and is available on the OceanWatch website. A gaps analysis completed in early 2020 identified areas where additional marine pest engagement material is required. MPSC is prioritising and developing appropriate materials to fill gaps and tailor materials to specific groups where practical.

Initial efforts focus on developing identification materials for the ports sector. After consultation with communications experts and stakeholders a digital poster template has been developed. The aim is to provide a clear, simple message of key marine pests to look out for and what to do if you see them. The template provides national consistency of messaging, while allowing elements such as contact details and featured species to be tailored to localities or audiences.

The poster is available digitally through the National Biosecurity Communications Engagement Network (NBCEN). Alterations to the images (species), contact details and government logos can be completed by state/territory agencies.

The DAWE communications team have completed a Passive Surveillance Communications Strategy to guide the engagement of all the targeted sectors (marinas, aquaculture and commercial divers). Investigation into additional materials to aid in improving knowledge and awareness in these other sectors is underway.

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: Commenced

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 just been completed and will be published in 2022.

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: 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 updated as required. A census will take place in the beginning of 2022 to update data and contact details.

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 publishes marine pest surveillance data and has been available in its current form since 2020.

This year, species predictive establishment range maps for 20 priority marine pests have been developed by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and added to NIMPIS; further species range maps for other priority marine pests are being discussed. A new species profile for Magallana (Crassostrea) bilineata (Black scar oyster) has been added to the system.

Updates of existing species profiles and improvements to functionality are ongoing.

Activity 2.8

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

Status: Commenced

Summary: An audit of Commonwealth datasets commenced in late 2021.

This activity is identified in the Marine Pest Surveillance Strategy 2021–2026.

Activity 2.9

Develop the marine pest surveillance strategy work-plan


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.

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 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: Not commenced

Summary: 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).

Marine pest events have provided on the ground experience in managing incursions and response in some jurisdictions, and exercises in activity 3.1 identified needs that will be addressed as resources become available.

DAWE is seeking funding to hold more response training exercises in 2022–23.

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

Summary: In early 2020, the Rapid Response Manuals (RRMs) on the Marine Pest website were updated to include guidance on how to apply new biosecurity response powers under the Biosecurity Act (2015). The RRM for Mytilopsis sallei and Perna viridis has been further updated based on lessons learnt from the P. viridis response near Weipa (2017–2018).

A new response manual for invasive crabs (to replace the current Rapid Response Manual for Carcinus maenas) is in the final stages of review and is aimed to be published on the Marine Pests website in late 2021. This manual will be assessed for use as a template for additional taxa-specific response manuals, starting with bivalves.

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 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.

Support marine pest biosecurity research and development (Objective 4)

Activity 4.1

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

Status: Commenced

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.

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.
Some members of the task group will seek to independently publish the report in a peer-reviewed journal.

Activity 4.4

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

Status: Not commenced

Summary: As ballast water and biofouling are the two main pathways, this activity is closely aligned with Activities 1.1 and 1.3 and is on hold until both these activities are complete.

Once recommendations and measures for ballast water and biofouling are developed and being implemented this project will be marked as commenced. Further investigation of other pathways will be required when resources permit.

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: DAWE 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 DAWE 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, DAWE 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. The questionnaires are being collated and a report developed.
  • DAWE is contributing the review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines (Activity 1.4).

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 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.

Status: Commenced

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 DAWE 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.

This activity is closely aligned with Activity 2.3: investigating and developing material needed for target sectors. The national campaign will align with the style and theme of this passive surveillance material. Initial ideas for this campaign include digital media advertising and a potential short educational video.

Social research will be completed prior to and at the end of the rollout of the campaign. This knowledge will guide the development of the communications to facilitate behaviour change in reducing marine pest risks. It will also be used to measure the effectiveness of the campaign before and after implementation.

Development of material for this activity is aimed to commence in mid-2022, when Activity 2.3 is well underway and phase one of the social research component has been completed, but is dependent on availability of resources.

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: Commenced

Summary: This activity addresses a recommendation of the 2015 Review of National Marine Pest Biosecurity that highlighted the need for establishing a national marine pest network.

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

Development of the network is being guided by the 2019 analysis of Australia’s marine pest biosecurity stakeholder network (Activity 5.1). This will enable DAWE to ensure it provides a benefit to communication and engagement with stakeholders across all aspects of marine biosecurity.

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.