Reducing the spread of marine pests

The most effective control of marine pests is to prevent their introduction.

Why marine pests are a problem

Marine pests can disperse naturally but they are also often transported across the world on the hulls of vessels (biofouling) and in the ballast water of ships. Once introduced, they threaten native biodiversity, commercial fisheries and aquaculture industries, and greatly increase maintenance requirements for vessels. These pests may also interfere with port activities.

Once in Victorian waters, marine pests can be spread further by a range of vessels either attached to the hull, in gear or areas that are not cleaned and dried thoroughly. Microscopic algal spores and tiny eggs floating in water in the bottom of your boat can stay alive for months. In mooring areas and marinas, boat hulls can quickly become infested which can result in the rapid spreading of pests around the state.

Federal requirements

In 2017, mandatory ballast water management requirements for international shipping came into force to reduce the likelihood of marine pest introductions. To further reduce the risk, the Australian Government introduced mandatory biofouling management requirements for international shipping in 2022.

Managing aquarium species

Aquarium fish make great pets, but if aquarium plants or animals are released into waterways there is the potential for them to become serious pests. They can also spread disease.

If you are involved in the aquarium industry as a trader, breeder, retail outlet or hobbyist, you have an important role in preventing the introduction and spread of marine pests in Victorian waters.

Your legal obligations

You must only import permitted species.

Do not release unwanted species into local waterways or use them as live bait.

Return unwanted aquarium species to your local aquarium dealer for correct disposal.

This includes live rock (live coral, live sand and coral rubble). Live rock is colonised and burrowed into by various organisms, including:

  • bacteria
  • algae
  • sponges
  • worms
  • crabs
  • clams
  • snails
  • sea stars and others.

Any of these organisms could establish viable pest populations in a new environment.

Similarly, gravel and even the aquarium water must not be released into waterways as they may contain:

  • fish and snail eggs
  • larvae
  • plant fragments
  • diseases.

If released, aquarium plants and fish can survive in the wild and establish viable populations – they may be very difficult or even impossible to eradicate.

If you are planning to import marine aquarium species into Australia – check that it is included on the Live import list.

Only species included on the list will be allowed through quarantine. You will also need an Import permit issued by the Australian Government.

It is also an offence to import declared noxious aquatic species into Victoria from other parts of Australia without permission.

Page last updated: 17 Jan 2024