What’s Happening At Tasmania Borders
by Lauren Rowlands, Biosecurity Tasmania
The inquisitive noses of Biosecurity Tasmania’s (BT) detector dogs at Tasmania’s airports and seaports continue to sniff out restricted goods hidden away in luggage, despite the reduced number of incoming flights in recent times.
While the hunt for contraband such as fruits and vegetables, carried by visitors, that have not been put through our strict import requirement checks continues, BT also maintains a program of parcel surveillance at mail centres – the changes to air and seaport schedules during COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity for BT’s Detector Dog Teams to focus greater nasal attention on mail centre imports. This work has been made even more important due to the surge of online shopping over the past 12-18 months. In a nutshell, there’s a lot still happening at our borders.
So what have they found? BT Inspectors continue to x-ray incoming parcels, recently resulting in the interception of a few stowaways:
– Sneaky succulents from interstate arriving with no documentation
– A fishy looking parcel of unlabelled and undeclared dead fish (nice!)
– ‘Washed wool’ from overseas, contaminated with grass seeds between its fibres
– Sporty chillies wrapped in a tracksuit
– Some spiky cacti and soil from the pots they were grown in.
Commercial consignments of imported fresh food do not avoid the scrutiny of BT, as these fruits and vegetables may play host to unwanted pests, such as Queensland fruit fly. During the high-risk period of October 2020 to March 2021, BT officers hand inspected over 2 million individual pieces of produce for insect pests before the consignments were released to supermarket shelves! BT’s activities at our points of entry for travellers and freight is vital in protecting our beautiful island state, but it is only one important part of our broader biosecurity system.
New requirements mean we’re all responsible Protecting our unique biosecurity status, at the border and beyond, is a shared responsibility between government, industry, and the community. This is now even more important with the introduction of a new requirement under Tasmania’s Biosecurity Act 2019 which emphasises the importance of biosecurity being a shared responsibility through the recent introduction of a new legal obligation called the General Biosecurity Duty, or GBD. This means that all of us –Tasmanians, visitors, and businesses – now have a ‘duty of care’ to take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent, eliminate, or minimise biosecurity risks.
You don’t have to be a biosecurity expert, however you do, to the best of your ability, need to understand, manage or minimise the biosecurity risks that may apply to your business, industry, community, and, when enjoying any outdoor leisure and recreational activities, gardening, travelling, and when shopping online.
Our unique island home and envious way of life here in Tasmania is worth protecting, and we all have a part to play in safeguarding it from unwanted pests, weeds, and diseases. When you are travelling, at work, at home, or when you are out and about experiencing the natural beauty of our state – you too can help protect Tasmania by getting to know your GBD.
Detector Dog fast facts:
– Many of the dogs that make up the Detector Dog Unit seen working at the airports seaports and mail centres are retrained rescue dogs from dog shelters.
– Not only are there dogs trained to detect restricted materials such as fresh fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, plants and seedlings, seeds, honey and seafood, but there are also specially trained dogs for sniffing out unwanted weeds and other invasive species in the field.
– The BT Detector Dogs are mainly beagle crosses who are trained and assessed in house for around six months before being deployed to the field.
– BT currently has 12 detector dogs and handlers working across the state, plus a small number of dogs in training.