Innovative boat wraps to boost WA marine biosecurity

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An innovative technique, to manage invasive marine pest threats in Western Australia, is being put to the test by Department of Fisheries’ staff in Broome today.

Aquatic Environment Branch Manager Rae Burrows said introduced marine pests posed one of the greatest threats to the State’s marine biodiversity and integrity of coastal habitats.

'Growth of marine plants and animals on vessel hulls, or biofouling, is the main way these pests arrive,' Ms Burrows said. 'The boat ‘sleeve’ we are using today provides a method of quarantining the vessel’s hull for treatment so that identified pest threats can be better managed.'

'The special encapsulation device, called an IMProtector (Invasive Marine Pest protector), is designed to be positioned around a vessel while it is still in the water and generally requires only a few personnel to operate.'

Ms Burrows said the special hull sleeve was manufactured for use in Broome and the owners of a local vessel Intombi had kindly allowed their boat to be used for this week’s trials.

'The device is of sufficient size to fit most illegal foreign vessels which may be encountered in the region, but it can also be used for other vessels up to a similar size,' she said.

'Once the vessel is encapsulated the threat is immediately reduced before numerous treatments, such as chemicals or heat, can be used to kill the organisms.'

The State Government has invested $9.4 million over the next two years to boost WA’s defences against significant aquatic biosecurity risks.

Ms Burrows said the Department of Fisheries was the lead agency responsible for aquatic biosecurity in Western Australian waters.

'The department has a dedicated team of staff involved in policy, research and compliance, who work to reduce the risk of invasive marine species entering our State’s important marine environment,' she said.

'It has been estimated that, of the 250 non-indigenous marine species identified in Australian waters, approximately 75 per cent have arrived as biofouling on vessels. A number of these species are considered to be invasive pests, because they breed quickly and over-run our native species.'

For more details on the importance of aquatic biosecurity for WA, see the Environment section of the Department of Fisheries WA website.