How community engagement on the Queensland fruit fly saved WA’s $8 billion horticulture industry
A single fruit fly. Who would have thought one tiny insect could spark such a big response?
In late January, a female Queensland fruit fly was found in a trap in a lemon tree on a residential street east of the Fremantle CBD — one of 1900 traps across Perth.
Everyone within 1.5km of the trap, even green-thumbed nonnas and poppas, was enlisted in the defence of WA’s enviable horticulture industry.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development established two quarantine areas spanning the entirety of Fremantle and parts of North Fremantle, East Fremantle and White Gum Valley.
Restrictions were advertised in local and State newspapers, through schools, local councils and social media.
No homegrown and non-commercial fruit and vegetables could leave the area, unless they had been cooked, processed or approved by the department’s director-general.
Any ripening produce must be picked or thrown out, as long as it had been treated first.
“The fruit can be disposed of by eating, cooking, freezing or securing in a sealed heavy-duty black plastic bag which is placed in direct sunlight for a period of three days,” the department said. “This should kill any flies or larvae before disposing of in regular bins.”
Those restrictions will apply until at least April 18 and the department can issue fines.
Department officers doorknocked 142 homes in the “outbreak zone”, baiting plants and setting traps.
It is all part of a rigorous plan to stamp out the fifth “Qfly” incursion in WA in 30 years.
They look harmless but Qflies are Australia’s worst fruit pest, known to lay eggs in everything from apples to avocados.
They are found in most States and Territories but WA has managed to keep them out.
With the State’s $8 billion agriculture sector at stake, biosecurity is serious business.
That urgency was on display in Jandakot last month after brown marmorated stink bugs turned up in a container of electrical goods from Italy.
Kim Epton was evacuated from his neighbouring business while the container was fumigated. “They found these bugs and then it was like the cavalry arrived,” Mr Epton said. “It was impressive to watch.”
Days later, the Federal Government tightened shipping biosecurity protocols until April 30 in response to recent mar-morated stink bug detections.
Bruce Seligmann is the secretary of Apace Community Gardens in North Fremantle, just inside the Qfly quarantine area.
He read about the Qfly find in a local newspaper and rang the department for more information.
Half of the 34 plot holders live outside the quarantine area, so they cannot take produce home.
“One of their senior officers came out and met about a dozen of us and went through what it was all about,” Mr Seligmann said. “He was terrific, very interesting. We said if we can do anything to help, we’ll be happy to.”
Department executive director of biosecurity Mia Carbon said community engagement was crucial to protecting WA’s envious biosecurity reputation.
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