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Vessels targeted in quarantine blitz.

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AFFA02/32WT 7 March 2002

Vessels targeted in quarantine blitz

Vessels that have visited the Torres Strait will be targeted through quarantine measures designed to stop pests and diseases from hitching a ride south to the mainland, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Minister Truss said AQIS was stepping up efforts to ensure vessels complied with the special quarantine laws on transit between Torres Strait and the mainland.

“Those laws include mandatory reporting requirements for returning domestic vessels that have visited the Torres Strait, and a ban on moving most goods from the Strait to other parts of Australia,” Mr Truss said.

Quarantine’s new measures include:

prosecution of vessel masters who have been operating in the Torres Strait and who do not report to AQIS before returning to the mainland, (vessels seven (7) metres or longer); ●

increased surveillance of domestic fishing vessels and yachts travelling south from the Torres Strait, with the help of additional Quarantine vessels at Cairns, Thursday Island and Bamaga; ●

increased Quarantine awareness including direct mail to yachting and fishing groups and regular VHF marine broadcasts throughout Torres Strait; and ●

cooperation with the Thursday Island coastguard and harbour authorities in northern Australia to enable 24 hour communication between yachts and Quarantine, giving vessels ample opportunity to report to AQIS before landing.


“Hundreds of domestic vessels visit the Torres Strait each year and these craft pose a serious threat to Australia’s biosecurity unless they comply with quarantine laws,” Mr Truss said.

“AQIS will be vigorously enforcing the reporting requirements for vessels returning from the Torres Strait following passage of new legislation strengthening Torres Strait quarantine laws in late 2000.

“The reporting rules aim to ensure that operators don’t unknowingly introduce any of the serious exotic pests and diseases that are present in countries to our north.

“The Torres Strait is one of the most likely routes into Australia for a range of exotic pests and diseases including rabies, a host of exotic fruit flies, screw-worm fly and Japanese encephalitis.

This makes vessel operators travelling through this area one of Quarantine’s most important allies in its efforts to keep exotic pests offshore.

A fact sheet is attached and is also available on the AQIS website at\tsvessels


Rules for vessels returning from Torres Strait

The Torres Strait is highly vulnerable to incursions of exotic pests and diseases present in countries to Australia’s north. Domestic vessels could move these pests to the mainland if they do not observe the special quarantine laws.

This fact sheet sets out key points for domestic vessels that have been operating in, or have visited, the Torres Strait and are en route to mainland Australia. For residents of the Torres Strait, more detailed information is available, including quarantine rules and exemptions for traditional inter-island trade.

The threat

The Torres Strait provides a potential transit route to the mainland for many serious pests, weeds and diseases that are present in countries to Australia’s north.

There are hundreds of exotic pests of concern to Australia including rabies; a flesh-eating blowfly called screw-worm fly; diseases carried by mosquitoes; invasive weeds; and many kinds of fruit fly that we do not have in Australia. Many pests would be expensive or impossible to control if they reached our food and livestock production areas.

Trade could stop with other countries.Exotic pests and disease also threaten our environment, wildlife and human health.

By carefully monitoring movement of goods in the Torres Strait and from the Torres Strait to the mainland, Quarantine is able to control the spread of many pests from island to island, and from islands to mainland.

The rules if your vessel is over seven (7) metres and you have visited or been operating in the Torres Strait on a domestic voyage, you must report to Quarantine before you return to the mainland. You must report between 12 and 24 hours before reaching your mainland destination. Contact AQIS directly on VHF radio, or via local harbour authorities.


while in the Torres Strait, you cannot move prohibited items - including fresh fruit and vegetables, plants, animals and animal products — from the islands in the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Thursday Island Group, or from any of the islands to the mainland. If you have prohibited foods on board, consume them before landfall or otherwise contact Quarantine before you reach land. Check with Quarantine for a full list of prohibited items.


Reporting to Quarantine when you contact Quarantine 12 to 24 hours before returning to the mainland, they’ll need to ask you some simple questions about your journey — including where you’ve been in the Torres Strait and what goods you’ve had on the vessel. These questions will help them decide whether your vessel needs to be inspected once you reach the mainland. Quarantine does not charge for vessel inspections. Most inspections take less than one hour.


you can report to Quarantine by VHF radio or via the local harbour authorities at your intended port of destination. Quarantine has offices at major northern ports including Broome, Darwin, Gove, Weipa, Bamaga, Thursday Island, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.


Tips for easy passage

Following these few simple steps will help to reduce inspection time for vessels returning from the Torres Strait to the mainland:

don’t source meat or poultry from the Torres Strait. If you do, consume it before leaving the area. ● keep receipts for any foodstuffs you’ve bought in the Torres Strait. ● consume all fruit and vegetables you have on the vessel, regardless of its origin, before returning to the mainland. ●

don’t carry live animals or plants without a permit from Quarantine. ● observe the notification laws — you must contact Quarantine 12 to 24 hours before you reach the mainland.

For more information

Internet: Email: Post: GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601.

AQIS in far north Queensland

Cairns:(07) 4030 7800 Thursday Island: (07) 4069 1185 Weipa: (07) 4069 7380 Bamaga: (07) 4069 3142

Photographs: :

To support this story AQIS can supply a colour image of quarantine inspecting a vessel. Phone Sheree Glasson on (02) 6272 4595 or email

Further inquiries: Mr Truss's office, Andrew Hall (02) 6277 7520 or 0419 996 766

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Last updated 7 March 2002

URL: Commonwealth of Australia 2000