A WA Ports marine biosecurity surveillance network project has won the prestigious Golden Gecko Awards for Environmental Excellence.

WA Port Authorities (including Fremantle Ports) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development won for their joint State-Wide Array Surveillance Program (SWASP), a world first in the use of molecular techniques by a collaborative marine biosecurity surveillance network.

Samples of marine growth are collected on settlement arrays, with DNA extracted and compared against a reference library of DNA from known marine pest species. A match indicates the potential presence of that species.

With a network of 11 port locations spanning 11,000km of WA’s coastline, it allows ports and regulators to more rapidly respond to a potential invasion of an introduced marine pest.

Pilbara Ports Authority’s Environment and Heritage Manager, Dan Pedersen, said the SWASP delivers a significantly cheaper, more accurate and rapid approach to the early detection and identification of introduced marine pests.

“The program has now been voluntarily taken up by all Port Authorities in Western Australia, and implemented as part of their Environmental Management Systems,” he said.

“It has also enhanced communication between ports and the department, leading to a more proactive approach and improved understanding of the risk marine pests pose to WA.

“The SWASP provides a reliable and targeted marine pest surveillance program, and sends a clear message that the risk, responsibility and management of our ports’ marine environments is taken very seriously.”

The Golden Gecko Awards for Environmental Excellence recognise leading practice and innovation in environmental management, and provide an opportunity to share experiences between government, industry and the community.

The award is sponsored by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, and submissions were assessed against four criteria:

– Demonstrated excellent environmental outcomes
– Commitment to environmental excellence
– Sets a new industry standard, demonstrates innovation or goes beyond regulatory compliance
– Community engagement and corporate social responsibility

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