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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

27 August 1999

NEW $1.7 M NATIONAL ASSAULT ON MARINE PESTS


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today announced a major new national campaign against introduced marine pests, with the Commonwealth, States and industry contributing $1.7 million to a range of initiatives.

"Exotic marine pests, like the Northern Pacific seastar and black striped mussel, are a major threat to Australia's marine biodiversity and, in turn, to aquaculture and other marine-based industries, including shipping," Senator Hill said.

"The range of initiatives announced today will have a major impact in containing the threat by helping us gain essential scientific information on how these pests come into Australia and how they spread."

Senator Hill made the announcement as a two-day workshop begins in Darwin to evaluate Australia's response to the black striped mussel outbreak and examine the future management of similar outbreaks.

"The black striped mussel outbreak is a stark example of how prone Australia is to invasion by foreign marine species which are brought here on the hulls of vessels of all sizes and in ballast water."

Senator Hill said half a million dollars in funding from the Natural Heritage Trust would be made available to establish an on-line national information system, to give Australia's marine managers and coastal communities better advice to respond to outbreaks of exotic marine species. The funding would be backed up by a further $700,000 from state and territory governments and the CSIRO.

"The alert list will identify high-risk species already inhabiting Australian waters and those that may arrive. For the first time, information on marine pest biology, distribution, impacts, and what control measures are most likely to work in particular conditions will be quickly and widely available."

Further funding of $147,000 is being made available to help the CSIRO develop a cost-effective kit to detect and identify new outbreaks of exotic marine pests. Federal Government funding will be supplemented with $65,000 contributed by the Victorian, Tasmanian, South Australian, Northern Territory and Western Australian governments and the CSIRO.

To help gain more information on how marine pests are transferred from visiting ships, Senator Hill said a comprehensive study of operating practices would be undertaken across 12 ports in south-east Australia.

"Experts will take a close look at hulls ropes and other equipment with the aim of establishing best practice guidelines, working with ship owners to inform and educate them," Senator Hill said.

The participating ports are Lorne, Warnambool, Port Fairy, Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, Barwon Heads, Queenscliff, San Remo, Corner Inlet, Gippsland Lakes, Mallacoota, and Port Eden in NSW. The Commonwealth is allocating $87,000 in funding through the Natural Heritage Trust, with a further $115,000 from the Victorian Government.

Meanwhile Victorian mussel farmers will participate in a demonstration project to contain existing populations of exotic marine pests within Port Phillip Bay.

The project will include the development of a mandatory code of practice for Victoria's mussel farming industry, to be used as a model for other States and the Northern Territory.

Senator Hill said funding of $74,000 for the project from the Natural Heritage Trust's Introduced Marine Pests Programme would be matched by $33,000 from the Victorian Government and $49,000 from the Victorian Mussel Growers Association.

The Introduced Marine Pests Program is part of the Trust's $125 million Coasts and Cleans Seas initiative which is supporting the conservation, repair and sustainable use of Australia's coastal and marine environments.

Media Contacts:
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0411 128 582
Margaret Tailby (Environment Australia) 02 6274 1430
Craig Macaulay (CSIRO Marine research) 03 6232 5219

Commonwealth of Australia