Australian Marine Parks

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004, Barry C Russell, Kerry Neil and Robert Hilliard.


Executive summary

This report is an assessment of the current status and potential risks of introduction of non-indigenous terrestrial and marine species at Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve (the Reserves).

The project scope and objectives were to:

  • identify and assess risks associated with the potential introduction of terrestrial and marine species into the Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve
  • provide a range of recommendations for managing these risks including actions to prevent or minimise, monitor and respond to incursions
  • develop a marine and terrestrial introduced species prevention and management strategy, which could be implemented by the Department of Environment and Heritage’s Marine Protected Areas Section.

The report includes:

  • background information on the Reserves, relevant to the introduction of non-indigenous species (NIS), including location, climate and oceanography, history of human visits and uses, present day management, other activities, and marine and coastal habitats
  • the results of field surveys of the marine and terrestrial environments of the Reserves, and describes which NIS are currently present, their invasive characteristics and which habitats may be prone to future invasion
  • an appraisal of possible vectors for marine and terrestrial introduced species, including vector origin, frequency and capability
  • a risk assessment of species introductions
  • an introduced species prevention and management strategy, and provides recommendations for:
    • specific objectives, performance targets and review mechanism
    • management of risk and introduced species prevention
    • monitoring and data collection
    • management of established terrestrial NIS.

The report also identifies further research and regional cooperation needs.

Recommendations of the introduced species prevention and management strategy are:

  • continued management presence by ACV personnel at Ashmore Reef to enforce access restrictions
  • adoption of strict quarantine standards and procedures for all equipment and materials transported to and from the Reserves
  • avoidance of vessel ballast or trim water discharge and hull cleaning within the Reserves
  • risk assessment of all vessels for fouling organisms, with hull inspection of suspect vessels using recommended protocols developed for the Port of Darwin, and collection and reporting of suspect material
  • establishment of permanent moorings at Ashmore Reef outside of West Lagoon, and the interception and/or removal of ‘high risk’ vessels such as SIEVs from the lagoon to these moorings to minimise the risk of inoculation of lagoon waters by eggs and larvae of non-indigenous marine species
  • improved data collection for all vessel arrivals
  • monitoring of marine debris, including removal and destruction of boat timbers and suspect driftwood, with collection and reporting of suspect material
  • regular monitoring for marine NIS, especially on artificial substrates such as mooring blocks and buoys, with review of the status of NIS and scientific re-survey every 3-5 years, or sooner if a NIS incursion is suspected
  • regular monitoring for potential invasive terrestrial NIS, with scientific re-survey of plant and terrestrial animals undertaken every 3-5 years on all three Ashmore islands and at Cartier Island, to monitor changes in populations and NIS impacts, and to detect the presence of new NIS
  • development of a long-term eradication program for ‘high risk’ weed species, with urgent eradication of buffel grass, Cenchrus ciliaris, and feather grass, Pennisetum pedicellatum
  • urgent survey of Ashmore islands to determine the extent and impacts of ginger ants, Solenopsis geminata, especially on bird and turtle nesting sites, with a view to the possible eradication of this species
  • research and monitoring of populations of the Asian house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, and assessment of its ecological impact on West Island
  • intensive annual trapping program to monitor for rodents on the Ashmore islands.