Keeping stink bugs out of Australia
25 February 2015
Nearly 15,000 new trucks, boats, cars and pieces of machinery imported from the United States in the past two months have been fumigated to manage the risk that a type of exotic brown stink bug could be introduced to Australia.
Brown marmorated stink bugs are pests to about 300 plant species including fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants and could have a significant impact on Australia’s $9 billion horticulture sector – and potentially on Australians’ backyards. They are also a social pest as they like to overwinter in people’s homes and when disturbed, they emit a long-lasting and unpleasant odour.
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said detecting and destroying the bugs was a huge job for Australia’s biosecurity officers – and managing the threat longer term meant working internationally to have risk better managed off-shore.
“The bugs are about the size of a five cent coin and they can hide in the nooks and crannies of large-scale machinery that is then packed and stacked on to vessels that are up to 300 metres long,” Minister Joyce said.
“Our scientists and biosecurity officers have been working to develop measures that can be applied there to stop these bugs hitch-hiking a ride to Australia.”
From 23 February 2015, break bulk vehicles (including boats), machinery, automotive parts and containerised machinery arriving in Australia from the east coast of the US—and from 9 March 2015, all vehicles from all US ports—will need to have been treated before departure.
“Our biosecurity officers will continue a heightened level of inspection and surveillance to make sure the measures applied off-shore are managing the risk appropriately.
“We can’t mount this scale of response without the cooperation and help of industry. I want to thank all industry – the ports, the shipping lines, the importers and the manufacturers – for the work they have put into keeping these damaging stink bugs out of Australia.
“The increased measures do come at an increased cost but what price can we put on protecting our agricultural industries and natural environment?” Minister Joyce said.
Since the detection of the brown marmorated stink bugs on a vessel in early December 2014, a range of cargo from nine vessels at Brisbane, Port Kembla, Melbourne and Freemantle has been treated.
The Department of Agriculture works off-shore, at the border and on-shore to safeguard our people, our unique environment and our $52 billion agricultural industries from many of the pests and diseases present in other parts of the world.
We encourage members of the community, including those who work at or near our ports, to report suspected sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs to the See-Secure-Report hotline on 1800 798 636.