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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
and
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon Peter McGauran MP
and
Western Australian Minister for the Environment
The Hon Mark McGowan MLA
and
Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry
The Hon Kim Chance MLC

6 December 2006

Marine pests to take a dive in Western Australia


Aggressive marine invaders like the Asian mussel, European fanworm and Japanese goby are being targeted for eviction under a special project to protect Western Australia’s marine environment.

The three-year, $674,000 project is funded by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust, with cash and in-kind contributions from the Western Australian Government. It is being run through a partnership between regional natural resource management groups and the Department of Fisheries.

“As we mark Coastcare Week this week, the health of our internationally-renowned coastline is top of mind,” Senator Campbell said.

“Some of the creatures living beneath the surface of our coastal waters don’t belong there, and in fact can do serious long-term harm to ecosystems and marine industries that rely on them such as aquaculture, commercial and recreational fishing and tourism. They also foul wharves and boats.

“Another project will introduce national guidelines to prevent ‘biofouling,’ which happens when marine life attaches to ships or fishing gear. These attached pests could be moved to other areas, spreading the problem.

“And perhaps the most important aspect of the work is that it aligns with the National System for the Prevention and Management of Introduced Marine Pest Incursions – a continent-wide approach to the issue,” Senator Campbell said.

Mr McGauran said more than 90 of the 250 marine pests in Australia were found in the State. “These ‘hitchhikers’ can spread rapidly if they attach themselves to hulls, recreational equipment and internal compartments of boats,” he said.

“Early detection is vital to the successful control and, where possible, eradication of these invaders. Control and eradication programs can be difficult and expensive, and are likely to impact on both the marine environment and recreational and commercial fisheries,” Mr McGauran said.

Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry, Kim Chance, said: “Learning how we can prevent these unwelcome guests from spreading is critical, so yearly workshops will be held in Perth to provide all groups involved in pest prevention with the latest data.

“We’re also going to see public talks held across the South Coast, South West, Swan, Northern Agricultural and Rangelands regions, so communities can get involved.”

Western Australian Minister for the Environment, Mark McGowan, said pests such as the Asian mussel and European fanworm form dense mats across seabeds, altering the fragile marine habitat.

“The Asian mussel can be found lurking in the Canning River, Swan estuary and the Fremantle area, but it’s also been reported in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania,” Mr McGowan said.

“It grows rapidly in shallow areas, excluding native mussels and restricting the growth of seagrass. The European fanworm is another destructive invader, competing for food with native oysters.

“The Japanese goby, a small bottom-dwelling fish, is found in Cockburn Sound and the Swan River, and competes with native species for habitat and spawning sites. It can spawn more often and for longer than native gobies.

“Other activities we’re funding to keep an eye on this include a central Introduced Marine Species Monitoring framework and a trial of the National Introduced Marine Species Monitoring manual.

“National monitoring will help people consistently track pest populations and manage ships’ ballast water.” This is water taken onboard for stability before a voyage begins, and sometimes it can carry pests to new places. Coastcare Week runs until December 7.

For more information on the project contact visit www.fish.wa.gov.au. For more information about the Natural Heritage Trust visit www.nrm.gov.au

Editors please note: high resolution images of marine pests are available. Contact the Natural Resource Management Communications Team on (02) 6274 1466 or email nrm@environment.gov.au.

Media contacts:
Regina Titelius (Minister Campbell) (08) 9421 1755 or 0419 099 324
Nancy Joseph (Minister McGauran) (02) 6277 7520
Alicia Miriklis (Minister Chance) (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240
Kym Coolhaas (Minister McGowan) (08) 9222 9111

Commonwealth of Australia