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Tough New Rules To Keep Marine Invaders Out



The Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, has announced that Australia will unilaterally implement strict new rules to make it compulsory for foreign ships to manage their ballast water so that it will not introduce exotic pests into Australia's marine environment.

The new rules, which will come into force in mid-2001, were discussed today at a Ballast Water working group in Canberra today by the Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Judith Troeth.

Mr Truss said Australia has decided to act unilaterally following continuing delays in implementing an international agreement on ballast water management.

"Pests coming into Australia's costal waters through ballast water have already caused significant problems for our marine environment," Mr Truss said. "The dramatic action taken against the black-striped mussel in Darwin earlier this year is a graphic example.

"These invaders threaten our marine ecosystems; some of them threaten the environment; some threaten our marine industries and some even threaten human health.

"On average, Australia has seen a marine invader become established in our waters for every one of the 200 or so years since international shipping began visiting our ports and harbours.

"By taking this action, we're sending a clear message to the international community that Australia is serious about protecting its marine environment as well as the many industries that depend on it.

"These new rules will keep Australia at the forefront of marine biosecurity and prove that ballast water management can be practical, safe, cost-effective and environmentally sound."

The new system has received the backing of the Sates and Territories as well as the key marine industry associations: the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Shipping Federation, the Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities, and the National Bulk Commodities Group.

As well as minimising the risks posed by ships already in our waters, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is also looking at ways of making visiting ships aware of our ballast water requirements before they arrive.

"This includes providing a decision support system to allow international vessels travelling to Australia to determine if their ballast water is at risk," Mr Truss said.

"AQIS is also developing a strategy which involves making the Australian community more aware of marine invaders and ways they can help prevent or mitigate their effects.

"This is an excellent response by AQIS to what is a serious and damaging problem, both for our marine environment and the many industries and regional communities that depend on it."

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