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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 997

(Question No. 1331)

Senator Margetts asked the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 3 May 1994:

  (1) With reference to the monitoring of ships ballast water for exotic marine organisms carried out by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), please detail the scope of the monitoring program, particularly in relation to sampling at Western Australian ports.

  (2) When does AQIS expect to complete its review of ballast water monitoring and compile its risk assessment of potential further damage to Australian marine ecosystems caused by the introduction of exotic biota.

Senator Collins —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) has had in place a Ballast Water Monitoring and Testing Program since 1991. This program has been aimed primarily at identifying toxic dinoflagellates, which have to date been considered the most serious threat to Australia as they can affect human health and seafood production. As further information has become available, the Program has been progressively streamlined by targeting known problem ports and vessels as well as testing for the cholera organism.

  Other than for targeted ports and vessels the Testing Program is based on random sampling and is aimed primarily at providing input to the Research Program rather than being a control mechanism.

  In 1992/93 and 1993/94 AQIS sampled approximately 460 vessels nationally. Of this number 26 were from the Western Australian ports of Port Hedland, Dampier, Geraldton, Fremantle and Bunbury.

  (2) Since 1990, Australia, through AQIS, has operated a comprehensive ballast water management program for international shipping, and in January 1994 provided to the States for their consideration a similar draft program for domestic shipping.

  The AQIS program is an ongoing one which recognises that at this time while there is no known solution to the problem anywhere in the world, there are arrangements that can be put in place to manage ballast water better and thus reduce the risk of the spread and establishment of exotic marine organisms.

  As part of the program Australia has been undertaking over the past three years a series of research projects into ballast water and related matters.

  This program, funded by the Federal Government with some small support from the shipping industry, has sought both to improve our understanding of the problem and to find an environmentally sound, technically acceptable, cost effective and safe treatment process.

  The first phase of the program, which was completed in November 1992 was intended to point Australia in the direction of future research programs. This phase of the program examined the most likely ballast water treatment technologies to remove viable marine organisms.

  The second phase of the research program which is intended to examine several issues in greater depth and new issues that have come to notice, is due for completion in June 1994.

  To bring all the issues together AQIS, which to date has had national responsibility for prime carriage of this matter, held a National Ballast Water Symposium in May 1994. A key outcome of this was unanimous agreement to establish a National Strategy for Ballast Water Management so that a more coordinated and concerted effort could be made to address this significant international and Australian problem. The drafting of this Strategy is underway.