Biosecurity Bulletin - Edition 1, 2014


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Deputy Secretary Foreword

photo of Rona MellorThis month the Department of Agriculture celebrated the commitment and dedication of companies and individuals who have gone that extra mile to help protect Australia’s biosecurity.

At the 2014 Australian Biosecurity Awards, three organisations: INPEX, Federation of Australian Wool Organisations, and Fertilizer Australia, and one individual – Tony Philippi of the Mildura Fruit Company, were recognised for their contributions to Australia’s biosecurity integrity.

Continue reading the message from the Deputy Secretary

In addition to this, an Australian Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Border Security, Network Seven, for its success in raising biosecurity awareness throughout Australia and internationally.

The Border Security television program, which has been broadcasting for 10 years, showcases the vital work done by our staff at the border and is one of the department’s many successful industry collaborations.

You can read more about the great work of our winners in the Biosecurity Awards article in this issue of the Biosecurity Bulletin. Also in this issue we also look at the challenges of stopping the movement of 100 million livestock, and the signing of an MOU that will see 50 000 people working with us to prevent biosecurity risks along our coastline.

Reinforcing the broad range of work undertaken by the department is a story about the 150-year-old City of Adelaide sailing ship.

The world’s oldest clipper, the City of Adelaide, has been moved from Scotland and will now call Port Adelaide home – but not before a thorough clean and inspection by the department to ensure it meets Australia’s strict biosecurity conditions.

Meanwhile our weird and wonderful finds at the border continue with half suckling piglets, leeches and shrimps being detected.

There is never a dull day at the Department of Agriculture.


Biosecurity Awards recognise initiative and commitment

Image of Biosecurity Awards 2014 booklet coverPeople and organisations from a broad range of industries, including the resources, agricultural and television industries, have been acknowledged at this year’s Australian Biosecurity Awards.

And despite their diversity of work, the winners share a common characteristic – a commitment to helping to maintain Australia’s biosecurity integrity.

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Rona Mellor, said the work undertaken by all the winners was exceptional.

“Each year when I read of the work done by award recipients I am impressed by their initiative, ingenuity, and willingness to play their part in keeping Australia’s biosecurity system strong,” Ms Mellor said.

Continue reading about Biosecurity Awards

“Whether it is in the field of animal health, construction or television, all this year’s winners have worked collaboratively with my department to help keep Australia free from exotic pests and diseases.”

The Australian Biosecurity Awards acknowledge individuals, community groups and organisations who have contributed to Australian quarantine and biosecurity management. This year’s winners are:

  • FertilizerAustralia, previously known as the Fertilizer Industry Federation of Australia, for its work with the Department of Agriculture to reduce the rates of contamination of bulk in-vessel fertiliser to less than two per cent in 2013, down from 18 per cent in 1996.
  • INPEX, an oil and gas exploration and production company, for setting up mandatory biosecurity requirements and developing an online biosecurity risk assessment tool to help its contractors identify biosecurity risk before importing their equipment into Australia.
  • TheFederation of Australian Wool Organisations (FAWO), for ensuring its many member organisations were fully aware of the implications for the wool industry of the potential impact that a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, or other major emergency animal disease outbreak, would have on wool exports. The FAWO also set up an Emergency Animal Disease Working Group, and lead the development of an industry-specific AUSVETPLAN Wool Industry enterprise manual that detailed the appropriate response to an outbreak.
  • Tony Filippi, the Mildura Fruit Company’s grower services representative, for his work in refining the company’s grower program that supports its exports of packed fruits to Korea, China and Thailand, following pest interceptions of Australian Citrus in Thailand during 2012.

A special Australian Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the Seven Network’s television show Border Security. The award recognised the collaborative work of the Seven Network with the department and its commitment to producing an accurate and educational television series.

Border Security has made a very valuable contribution to biosecurity awareness in Australia. It has been broadcast for 10 years, is shown in more than 150 countries and continues to draw an Australian audience of more than 1 million viewers each week.

The program is a highly successful media channel that has raised the profile of the department by delivering important messages about Australia’s biosecurity around the world.


Stopping 100 million animals in their tracks to combat disease

Image of Exercise Odysseus logoHow do you stop Australia’s 100 million livestock from moving for three days? It would be an enormous challenge but being prepared is a good start.

Addressing this challenge is Exercise Odysseus - a series of more than 50 discussion exercises and field activities that will be held across Australia to assess government and industry arrangements for implementing a national livestock standstill in the
event of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

Continue reading about Exercise Odysseus

Australian Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said that the exercise program provided an opportunity for the Department of Agriculture, state and territory biosecurity agencies, Animal Health Australia and key industry organisations to work together as part of a broader FMD preparedness initiative.

“If Australia had an FMD outbreak, a critical measure in limiting its spread will be to stop the movement of susceptible livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, alpacas, and deer,” Dr Schipp said. “It could also see movement restrictions placed on products such as meat, wool and dairy.”

“A standstill will provide a better chance of containing the disease, and allow authorities to conduct surveillance activities and trace the movement of affected livestock.”

Each exercise or activity being conducted as part of Exercise Odysseus will be based on one scenario where the national livestock standstill needs to be implemented, initially for 72 hours, in response to an FMD outbreak in Queensland.

Dr Schipp said that exercises and field activities would be conducted at different times throughout 2014, in each Australian state and territory.

“Exercise Odysseus will involve hundreds of people from government and industry organisations who have disease response roles, which include high level decision making, biosecurity operations, planning, logistics, administration and providing public information,” Dr Schipp said.

It is important for people to be aware that these activities are not in response to a real outbreak, and there is no requirement to stop the movement of livestock.

The Department of Agriculture is coordinating the exercise program. More information about Exercise Odysseus.


New quarantine import conditions for prized pets

Photo of Christine Holden picks up her pooches Herbie and Mollie from a post-entry quarantine station.The first cats and dogs to be processed under the Department of Agriculture’s new import conditions have been reunited with their owners in Australia.

The big change for cat and dog importers is a reduction in the minimum stay in post-entry quarantine from 30 to 10 days.

In the first week of the new import policy, 96 dogs and 35 cats arrived in Australia to undergo a mandatory, but now much shorter, quarantine period.

The Australian Government-managed post-entry quarantine facilities look after approximately 5300 imported cats and dogs every year.

Continue reading about new quarantine import conditions

The new import conditions place greater emphasis on offshore management of animal disease risks such as rabies through the use of vaccines, tests and treatments before approval is given to import.

Shifting the risk offshore has allowed the department to reduce the minimum time an animal must spend in post-entry quarantine from 30 to 10 days upon arrival in Australia, subject to meeting the pre-export import conditions.

The updated policy is based on rigorous scientific analysis and a risk-based approach. Using science, the Department of Agriculture can effectively manage biosecurity risks while also developing an improved import process that benefits the animals and their owners.

The revised import policy and new import conditions are available on the department's website. The website also features an online calculator to help pet owners to work out their animal’s individual import process.


City of Adelaide finds new home in Port Adelaide

Photo of the world's oldest clipper ship, the 150-year-old City of AdelaideThe world’s oldest clipper ship, the 150-year-old City of Adelaide, has been relocated from Scotland to Port Adelaide with the help of Australia’s biosecurity officers.

Just one of two remaining clipper ships of this era (the other being the Cutty Sark), the ship was on the verge of being demolished before being purchased by a South Australian preservation trust.

But saving the clipper from demolition was only the beginning of the process – significant work was required for it to meet Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

Continue reading about the City of Adelaide

First Assistant Secretary, Border Compliance Division, Colin Hunter, said it was vital that the ship was free from dangerous pests and diseases before it could move from Scotland to Port Adelaide.

“In 2011 we sent biosecurity officers to inspect and provide advice on how the ship would need to be cleaned to meet Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements,” Mr Hunter said.

“The condition of the ship was very poor and contained live and dead pigeons, crustaceans, soil, eggs, guano, mould, vegetation, spiders and corrosion.

“A few years after we gave this biosecurity advice, our officers returned to Scotland and found the ship in great condition. It had been cleaned and fumigated and was compliant with Australia’s biosecurity conditions.”

Mr Hunter said that as the ship had been ashore in Scotland for some time, biosecurity officers had to be especially diligent to ensure it did not pose a biosecurity risk.

“Vessels coming to Australia could pose biosecurity risks as they may carry unwanted pests and diseases that can threaten Australia’s unique flora and fauna, aquaculture and agricultural industries,” Mr Hunter said.

“Our staff should be proud of the great work they’ve done in helping to get this piece of history ready for its journey to Australia.”

During its heyday, the City of Adelaide ferried immigrants and trade goods to South Australia, returning to England with cotton, wool and wheat. About 250 000 Australians have ancestors who immigrated to South Australia aboard the ship.

The City of Adelaide’s journey ends a 14-year campaign by engineers, maritime historians, ship enthusiasts, descendants of the ship’s migrants and supporters to bring it to Australia—all with biosecurity support from the department.

For more information on the Clipper Ship of Adelaide.


Weipa in a flap over exotic racing pigeons

Photo of asian markings on a band on one of the bird’s feet.A sharp-eyed tugboat employee has helped to avert the threat of a serious bird disease being introduced to Australia.

The employee, working at the bauxite mining port of Weipa in far north Queensland, spotted two exotic racing pigeons and notified the local wildlife carer.

The carer, who collected the birds and housed them away from other wildlife, contacted the Department of Agriculture office in Weipa.

Continue reading about Weipa's exotic racing pigeons

After confirming that the pigeons were exotic and tame, the department acted on the advice of one of its veterinary officers in Brisbane and asked the wildlife carer to euthanise the birds as a biosecurity precaution.

The department’s Director of Biosecurity Operations, Northern Region, Kevin Langham, said the pigeons could introduce into Australia a range of serious bird diseases, including avian influenza (bird flu) and Newcastle disease.

“Not only could these diseases affect our native bird population, but if any infected exotic bird were to mix with local domestic and commercial birds, they could seriously impact our poultry and egg producers,” Mr Langham said.

“Even boutique industries, such as our domestic racing pigeon industry and the pet bird industry could be affected.”

Mr Langham said that sometimes racing pigeons sought refuge on international cargo ships.

“If a bird is blown off course, gets lost over water, or encounters bad weather, it might use a ship to rest on,” Mr Langham said.

“If the ship docks in Australia, the exotic racing pigeon becomes a potential pathway to introduce and spread bird diseases throughout the country. For this reason, the department works closely with port operators, stevedores and shipping companies to keep a lookout for these unwanted arrivals.”

“When we do find birds such as these we act quickly, just as we did in Weipa, to protect our native and domestic birds.”


Allied against marine debris

Photo of Heidi Taylor from Tangaroa Blue and Colin Hunter from the Department of Agriculture sign a Memorandum of Understanding.A partnership between the Department of Agriculture and Tangaroa Blue, a Queensland not for profit marine debris clean-up organisation, will see an extra 25 000 pairs of dedicated eyes looking out for debris that may pose biosecurity risks.

Continue reading about allied against marine debris

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the department and Tangaroa Blue, will give the department access to a comprehensive marine debris database of more than 2.5 million items, as well the benefit of thousands of volunteers looking out for biosecurity risk material on beach clean-up days.

With the MOU in place, Tangaroa Blue will now be able to record and report marine debris of a biosecurity nature and the department, through its seaports program, use the data to inform the shipping industry of the risks posed by discarding biosecurity material overboard.

The agreement also allows the department to have biosecurity information in the organisation’s training manual.

First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Agriculture’s Border Compliance Division, Colin Hunter, said the department was very excited about the MOU.

“This MOU means we will have thousands of people looking out for and recording marine debris items that might be a biosecurity risk,” Mr Hunter said.

“Not only does marine debris look ugly, threaten marine life and choke our oceans and waterways, it also provides a potential pathway for biosecurity threats to reach Australia.

“It is rewarding to see an organisation such as Tangaroa Blue keen to do their bit and help us to protect Australia from the threat of exotic pests and diseases.”

Tangaroa Blue coordinates the Australian Marine Debris Initiative; an on-ground network of volunteers, communities, organisations and agencies around the country that monitor the impacts of marine debris along their stretch of coastline.

For more information on Tangaroa Blue, visit their website.


Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a GAS!

Image of a giant african snailSnails may be considered a delicacy by some, but when you’re confronted with a specimen with a shell measuring almost seven centimetres, that’s more than a mouthful!

This is exactly what the staff at a warehousing and distribution company in Darwin encountered recently when they came across a giant African snail (GAS).

Continue reading about Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Native to eastern Africa, the giant African snail (Achatina fulica) is one of the world’s most damaging land snails. They have a ferocious appetite and can munch their way through a huge variety of plants, including legume crops, vegetables, citrus, pawpaw, fruit trees, the bark of large trees (including eucalyptus trees), and ornamental plants.

Adult snails often hitch rides in cargo containers and imported machinery or motor vehicles while their eggs can be moved in soil.

In this instance, the snail was found on the outside of a container of imported goods.

Officers from the Department of Agriculture collected the snail, euthanised it, and had it identified by the Senior Curator of Molluscs at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin.

Once confirmed as a GAS, the specimen was added to the museum’s mollusc collection.

This is one snail that is now definitely ex-cargo!


Border finds

The Border Finds stories are drawn from the work of the Operational Science Program (OSP) within the Department of Agriculture.

OSP has entomologists and plant pathologists across Australia who work to identify pests and diseases detected by frontline biosecurity officers and provide practical advice and training.

Read all about the interesting discoveries this month.

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Not the full hog

Photo of Pig leg and salamis. Pig leg and salamis are not permitted into Australia.A pig leg was caught in a biosecurity poke when its importer didn’t check the biosecurity requirements for sending goods to Australia.

The Iberian ham, which still had the trotter attached—an unwelcome surprise at the international mail centre in Sydney—was detected following an X-ray of the package. Accompanying the pig leg was salami and wine.

Pig meat can contain serious exotic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, hog cholera, Aujeszky’s disease, swine vesicular disease and African swine fever.

The wine was released to the importer while the pig leg and salami were seized and the recipient given the option of exporting or destroying the ham and salami.

The Department of Agriculture has a rigorous, risk-based approach to inspecting international mail, passenger baggage and cargo for exotic biosecurity threats.

More information about what not to send to Australia can be found on the Department of Agriculture website.

Shrimp a surprise package

Photo of an ornamental tiger shrimp (this is not a photo of the seized shrimp).Staff at Melbourne’s international mail centre received a surprise when they found live sea creatures in a package sent by express post from Thailand.

The high-risk package, which was inspected by biosecurity officers, contained two ornamental tiger shrimp (Caradina Cantonensis) in water as well as a culture intended to be food for the shrimp.

The shrimp were discovered during a routine X-ray of mail by an officer from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service who notified Department of Agriculture officers.

No species of live shrimp or crustacean can be imported into Australia. Although the shrimp were not exotic (they do exist in the warmer climate of Northern Australia), there are risks that freshwater marine life can carry bacterial and fungal pests and pathogens.

The shrimp had to be humanely euthanased. The Department of Agriculture is investigating the importation.

Pigs do fly

Photo of a half a suckling pig declared by a passenger at Sydney airport.A passenger unaware of Australia’s biosecurity requirements arrived in Sydney with half a suckling pig.

Biosecurity officers at Sydney airport were amazed to discover the pig remnants, which the passenger had declared.

The suckling pig was not allowed into Australia as it could carry serious exotic diseases like foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, Aujeszky’s disease, swine vesicular disease and African swine fever.

Anyone arriving in Australia from overseas must declare any plant or animal goods on their Incoming Passenger Card.

For more information on Australia’s biosecurity requirements visit Arriving in Australia - Declare it!

Chinese leeches stopped at the border

Photo of dried Chinese Blood Sucker LeechesDepartment of Agriculture officers were no suckers when it came to intercepting a parcel at Sydney’s international mail centre.

A biosecurity officer inspected a bag of goods from China that appeared to be a type of leguminous pod. A fellow biosecurity officer identified them as Dried Chinese Blood Sucker Leeches.

These leeches can carry unknown aquatic disease organisms that could contaminate and threaten Australia’s aquatic environment.