Mussel up and out of Weipa

Almost 18 months of regular surveillance activities have found no further evidence of the invasive marine pest Asian green mussel in waters around Weipa.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said prompt action following the discovery of a single mussel south of the town in May 2017 was crucial to ensuring the best possible biosecurity outcome.

“Biosecurity Queensland quickly partnered with a number of stakeholders to conduct a surveillance program in waters around Weipa to determine the extent of any incursion,” Mr Furner said.

“Surveillance methods used included plankton tows, settlement plate deployment and inspection, beach walk inspections, underwater remotely operated vehicle inspection of infrastructure and inspection of recreational and commercial vessels.

“This coordinated approach has culminated in laboratory tests conducted at Brisbane’s Biosecurity Sciences Laboratories and in Western Australia confirming that the waters around Weipa are free from signs of Asian green mussel.

“While the early detection and swift response was vital in ensuring that only one Asian green mussel was found, locals and visitors should remain vigilant and report any suspect sightings to Biosecurity Queensland.”

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Mr Furner said the mussel was found between Boyd Bay and Pera Head during routine surveillance conducted by a Rio Tinto marine biologist who reported the discovery to Biosecurity Queensland.

“Asian green mussels are exotic to Australia and are considered to be an invasive marine pest that out-compete native species,” Mr Furner said.

“It is unknown how the mussel arrived in Australia but Asian green mussels are known to attach themselves to vessels with their larvae able to move through the exchange of a vessel’s ballast water.

“Australia has biosecurity measures in place to ensure that ships’ ballast water is treated on-board or exchanged outside of Australian waters before it can be discharged.”

A decision to return to business as usual based on the surveillance results was supported at a recent meeting of the national Consultative Committee on Introduced Marine Pest Emergencies.

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Biosecurity Queensland acknowledges the support of Rio Tinto, North Queensland Bulk Ports, the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Napranum, Mapoon and Aurukun indigenous ranger groups, Weipa Town Authority, Cape York Natural Resource Management Group, Maritime Safety Queensland, James Cook University, Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and local business owners and community members.

In June 2018, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources provided a $50,000 grant to assist with the Asian Green Mussel response.

The grant was part of the Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative and helped fund investigation and surveillance activities, including the engagement of technical experts to assist with the response.

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