Fire ant outbreak not necessarily related to gas industry shipping

Biosecurity Queensland have not retracted comments related to gas industry ships and the potential source of the fire ants outbreak in Gladstone, published by the ABC

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) released a statement which said there is no evidence that anyone has breached quarantine requirements through the importation of goods or equipment into Gladstone.

Genetic testing has revealed the ants have come from the Southern United States, however, according to DAFF, how they got to Gladstone is unknown.

The ants are thought to have been brought in to the Yarwun area between two and three years ago, and it has been confirmed that they have come from southern USA.

In order to fund the fight against these destructive insects, $3.295 million has been provided to Biodiversity Queensland for the next 2½ years for eradicating fire ants in Gladstone, which has not yet already been spent.

The funding was made through the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication program: national funding provided by all state and territory governments as well as the federal government to ensure the fire ants don’t spread further.

DAFF said the program is working closely with all businesses working or operating within the Fisherman’s landing and Curtis Island areas to eradicate the fire ants, and that all parties have been incredibly supportive and accommodating of the program’s requirements.

A spokesperson for the major contractor on Curtis Island, Bechtel, has said that all supply orders contain conditions regarding quarantine and all international suppliers are informed of Australia’s quarantine restrictions before equipment is transported.

“We have been supporting Biosecurity Queensland on this issue and have kept our employees informed every step of the way to ensure we do all we can to assist, the spokesperson said.

“This has included Fire Ant Awareness Training conducted by Biosecurity Queensland for Bechtel staff involved in the handling of materials coming to the projects.

“Our teams that manage equipment when it arrives in Gladstone perform inspections, including the inspection of every truck and cargo before they are taken to the projects.

“We do not know how the fire ants came to arrive on the island, but we are supporting Biosecurity Queensland’s management program and continue to provide information to our employees.”

Anthony Wright from Biodiversity Queensland has said that the fire ants were first found on the mainland, and that Curtis Island is within fire ant flying range of the mainland.

“We reason that we looked on Curtis Island was because it was within flying range for fire ants,” he said.

Wright also said that there is no concrete evidence of exactly how the fire ants have been brought to the mainland.

“The issue of all goods imported into Australia, coming from areas with fire ants like the United States.

“There are an enormous amount of goods coming into Gladstone every day, it’s likely that they have come from the United States, given that there have been six incursions of fire ants, but Bechtel is just one of many companies bringing goods into the country.

Wright said that Biodiversity Queensland has had the full support of local industry in attempting to prevent the spread of fire ants.

“The level of support that has been offered by companies in the Gladstone area to attempt to mitigate the risk of spread of fire ants through human-assisted movement has been exemplary,” he said.

According to a study reported in National Geographic, fire ants are the only species of ants which have been observed to form living “life rafts” which can float on water.

Image: National Geographic

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