AN ‘EARLY warning’ detection system has been placed in the water at Queensland ports to find any traces of exotic marine pests.

Biosecurity Queensland has partnered with Queensland port authorities to deploy specially-designed detectors in the waters at the ports of Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone and Brisbane.

Based on a similar program in Western Australia, Queensland is using technology to test DNA from marine life growing on structures and collected in plankton from port waters.

In a network spanning 1400km of Queensland’s coastline, it aims to detect molecular traces of exotic marine species including:

•             Asian green mussel

•             Black striped false mussel

•             Asian bag mussel

•             Brown mussel

•             Harris mud crab

•             Chinese mitten crab

•             Japanese seaweed.

State agriculture minister Mark Furner said after being submerged for two months to provide a surface for marine organisms to settle and grow, the detector plates were then retrieved and tested for marine pests.

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“This is a year-long surveillance trial which will run over the winter, spring and summer months, to allow for seasonal changes in environmental conditions at each of the ports,” Mr Furner said.

“If invasive marine pests become established they could seriously impact our marine biodiversity as well as industries including fishing, ports, marinas and tourism.”

Mr Furner said deploying this kind of system was “an exciting first”.

“The first set of arrays will be taken out of the water after eight weeks and we’ll see what they’ve found,” he said.

“If there are any signs of marine pests, this early warning will allow us to respond as quickly as possible.”

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