WEST Australian port authorities and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) recently won an Australian Biosecurity Award for the development of the State-Wide Array Surveillance Program (SWASP).

SWASP, won in the industry and government categories, extracts DNA twice a year from marine growth samples and works to match them to a reference library of known marine pest DNA.

SWASP comprises of settlement arrays deployed at 11 state-owned and private port locations across Western Australia, covering 11,000 kilometres along the coastline.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) recognised the program as a cost-effective way for ports to respond quickly to biosecurity threats and pests that could potentially jeopardise Australia’s $60bn agriculture industries.

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Pilbara Ports Authority’s environment and heritage manager Dan Pedersen said, “The practical and flexible design of the SWASP also allows us to continue adapting and integrating emerging technologies so we continue to innovate in this are.”

 “The program successfully demonstrates how WA’s port authority and DPIRD are working together to share the cost and management of the state’s marine biosecurity surveillance, ensuring a co-ordinated response to marine pest incursions,” Mr Pedersen said.

WA Ports minister Alannah MacTiernan stressed the importance of biosecurity as front-line defence as Western Australia hosted more than 9600 vessels and 119 cruise ships in 2017-18.

“Driving greater awareness and better education of biosecurity issues by port users both nationally and internationally is vital to protect both our marine and agricultural environments,” she said.

WA fisheries minister Dave Kelly commended the improved efficiency with the implementation of SWASP saying earlier surveillance processes took months to yield possible threats as they were reliant on physical (morphological) identification by global expert taxonomists.

“Being able to quickly and accurately identify a marine pest, means that steps can be taken to minimise impact on the state’s valuable commercial and recreational fisheries,” Mr Kelly said.

Federal minister for agriculture and water resources David Littleproud congratulated the biosecurity champions of the Australian Biosecurity Awards and remarked, “Everyone has a role to play to protect Australia from pests and diseases”.

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