Protecting the lands we hunt – practising biosecurity hygiene

Hunters accessing public lands or agricultural properties can potentially spread pests and diseases that could decimate Australia’s agricultural industries, but some simple measures can reduce this risk and strengthen relationships with landowners.

Cleaning wheel arches on vehicles, sticking to designated tracks and clean footwear are simple biosecurity risk reduction measures hunters can follow as they work with landowners to control pest animals.

When a landowner invites hunters onto their land, they rely on the visiting party being mindful of biosecurity risks and committing to help prevent, reduce or eliminate the introduction and spread of diseases as we go about our activities.

But being a biosecurity aware hunter goes beyond preventing biosecurity breaches at just the properties where we might hunt. It is for the benefit of our whole country. This is why the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA National) has partnered with Grain Producers Australia (GPA) as we work to spread the word that hunters are committed to maintaining biosecurity for all.

The Secure Our Farms-Hunt BioAware campaign was launched earlier this year and widely celebrated by the grain producing and wider agricultural community in Australia.

SSAA National Wildlife Programs Leader Matthew Godson said hunters conducting pest animal control and being conscious of biosecurity risks when entering and exiting properties added to our good reputation in the community.

“Hunters providing the vital service that takes the load off landowners in terms of pest animal control, but also practising good biosecurity practices are the whole package,” he said.

“By working with GPA to ensure hunters are aware of the commitment landowners need from visitors to their property, we’re ensuring hunters have an ongoing place in land management and our agricultural industry is safe from biosecurity risks into the future.”

Farmers have the responsibility to manage authorised visitors to their properties such as contractors, tradespeople and hunters, but are also faced with unauthorised visitors accessing their land.

GPA Chair Barry Large said complacency is the enemy of biosecurity and vigilance is critical to protecting farm productivity and performance.

“Farmers can’t conduct the basic surveillance and inspections for hitchhiker pests if people are accessing our properties without us knowing about it,” he said.

“The Secure Our Farms-Hunt BioAware partnership between GPA and SSAA National ensures everyone understands the risks and consequences of ignoring biosecurity; deliberately or not.

“Someone entering a farm without the farmer’s knowledge and not following the right protocols also risks spreading serious biosecurity risks, which could decimate our $28 billion cropping sector,”

Mr Large said.
“If we had a combined biosecurity outbreak for crops and animals, it would also threaten our food security and increases prices for everyday Australians, and the countries we export to.”

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity is the process of preventing the introduction, spread or impact of harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria, animals, plants, pathogen and insects. These pests have to be managed and planned for at a whole country level through imports and exports, state level, regional level and by property boundaries.

Feral cats, toads, weeds, fungus, insects and airborne diseases are all types of biosecurity risks that threaten our native wildlife, environment and way of life. Measures such as controlling what can be brought into or out of Australia, a state or territory or geographical region, can stop the establishment or reduce spread risks from animal, plant or food items.

Australia’s biosecurity system ensures our industries can continue to do business overseas. In many ways it protects our way of life as we know it. Biosecurity safeguards agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries worth $51 billion, our $50 billion tourism sector, environmental assets worth $5.7

trillion and more than 1.6 million jobs.

What is farm biosecurity?

Australia’s grain is produced in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Across this vast area there are a varying range of soils and climatic conditions in which a wide array of crops are grown. Subsequently, the associated pests and diseases that can pose a risk to production also threaten production and domestic and international market access

vary widely.

Grain farm biosecurity generally involves implementing a set of management practices that protect a property from entry and spread of pests. Growers are encouraged to:

  • Monitor crops for the presence of pests
  • Report anything unusual
  • Manage people movement
  • Reduce risks posed by vehicles and equipment
  • Manage produce carefully
  • Manage risks posed by livestock and feed

What are hunters’ responsibilities?

Weeds and diseases can be spread between farming regions or paddocks through the

movement of vehicles and people. Simple measures such as maintaining a clean

vehicle and gear, liaising with landowners about any biosecurity requirements and

reporting anything unusual take little time for hunters but can make a big difference.

Biosecurity threats posed by contaminated soil and plants passing between properties were often less visible than the pest animals hunters are used to addressing.

“Just like pest animals, these weeds, insects, pathogens and diseases present very real threats to a farmer’s bottom line,” Mr Godson said.

“The control of pest animals by a hunter is just as vital to biosecurity management as pest weed, disease and insect control. The difference is these more sinister and almost invisible biosecurity threats can be effectively controlled by everyone entering and exiting a property doing the right thing.”

Australian agriculture is worth $81 billion to the economy, providing vital food and commodities for both Australia and overseas countries. It’s estimated a large multi-state foot-and-mouth outbreak would cost livestock producers more than $52 billion over a 10-year period. A potential incursion of

African swine fever into the Australian pork sector has estimated total economic losses between $1.5 to $2 billion under a highspread scenario spanning five years.

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