A united front against marine invaders: developing a cost-effective marine biosecurity surveillance partnership between government and industry.
Successful detection of introduced marine pests (IMP) relies upon effective surveillance. However, the expedience of responding following IMP detection is often dependent upon the relationship between regulators and stakeholders. Effective detection of IMP in areas such as commercial ports requires a collaborative approach, as port environments can be highly complex both above and below the water. This complexity can encompass physical, logistical, safety and legislative issues. With this in mind, the aquatic pest biosecurity section within the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) developed the State-Wide Array Surveillance Program (SWASP) in collaboration with Western Australian Port Authorities and port industry stakeholders. The SWASP is primarily based on passive settlement arrays for IMP detection. Arrays are deployed at strategic locations within Ports. Marine growth samples collected from the arrays are processed using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) to identify the presence of IMP within a specific geographical location. Over 8 years, participation in SWASP has grown from 3 to 11 ports, spanning over 11,000 km, from the tropical north to temperate south of Western Australia. The programme has proven to be highly effective as a means of fostering stakeholder involvement and, importantly for IMP surveillance. The growth and success of SWASP has continued primarily because of the commitment and farsightedness of the ports involved. The regular presence of the biosecurity regulator as a partner in SWASP has provided a consistent face for biosecurity and fostered good stakeholder relationships, ensuring there is a reliable and effective ongoing marine surveillance programme for the state. Synthesis and applications. Through a united and collaborative approach to marine biosecurity surveillance, port authorities, industry and biosecurity regulators have developed the State-Wide Array Surveillance Program (SWASP) and closed a major gap in biosecurity surveillance. The SWASP collaboration uses passive settlement arrays and molecular analyses to provide regular marine pest surveillance from the tropics to temperate regions of Western Australia. The continued commitment has embedded valuable relationships between stakeholder and regulator ensuring ongoing surveillance in marine biosecurity for the state. The Western Australian SWASP example has inspired other jurisdictions around Australia to develop similar collaborative approaches which will have far-reaching marine biosecurity benefits.