IT’S the second time in two years that aquatic weed Amazon Frogbit has been found in the Great Lakes, and this time credit goes to a Bulahdelah café visitor for the discovery.
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In 2017, the discovery of this ecosystem destroyer in a natural area near Forster was a first for NSW. It triggered an emergency response under the Biosecurity Act 2015, with MidCoast Council working closely with Hunter Local Land Services, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
In April this year, John de Bruyn was visiting a Bulahdelah cafe with his family.
“While there my 10 year old son, who loves looking at leaves and nature, picked a few leaves from a water-plant in the courtyard pond. He was intrigued at the difference between the smooth green tops and the spongey air pockets underneath that apparently kept the leaves floating on the water surface. As usual he insisted on picking a few specimens and showed them to us, but I thought no more about it.”
At work on Monday, John glanced at MidCoast Council’s weed calendar – and there, featuring on the monthly image was the same leaf his son had shown him on the weekend. John rang the hotline and reported, although he says he was concerned the café owners might get into trouble for unsuspectingly harbouring a biosecurity threat.
“I was assured that the aim was not to prosecute people, but rather to stop the selling of this weed as a decorative water plant to discontinue its spread,” he says.
MidCoast Council, the NSW DPI and Hunter LLS worked together with the café owners and sourced the plant to a Bulahdelah property. That landowner was also unaware of the infestation of Frogbit, and with everyone working together, the team was able to contain the plant, before it spread to a nearby high-value and protected wetland.
Amazon Frogbit originates from fresh water habitats of tropical and subtropical Central and South America. Although in the early stages of establishment in Australia, these weeds have the potential to seriously degrade Australia’s ecosystems if left untreated.
In Australia, the weed is often purchased illegally online, on sites such as Gumtree and eBay, by unsuspecting aquarium owners and can spread to natural waterways accidentally or via deliberate dumping of garden and aquarium waste. We advise consumers to “do your homework” before purchasing any plant online, as you could be purchasing prohibited matter.
“We’re calling on local aquarium owners and those who have ponds or dams on their properties to assist us over the next few weeks to help eradicate Frogbit from our local area” says Council’s Strategic Weeds Biosecurity Officer, Terry Inkson. “If you suspect you might have found Amazon Frogbit, please contact us at once, on 6591 7222 for advice and a meeting.”
There are extremely heavy fines for offences committed under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Even purchasing prohibited plants online could place you at risk. “However, we’re more interested in locating and destroying this serious weed than penalising people who may have been unaware they were committing an offence,” says Terry.
With this in mind, we are announcing an amnesty for anyone who calls us before 30 November 2019 – we will not fine you if you report the weed and all calls will be treated as confidential.
And we’re very grateful for the great community members who make the effort to report weeds to Council – John de Bruyn has been recognised by the NSW DPI for his contribution to halting the spread of Frogbit in NSW. You can read more about his efforts and others at dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/your-role-in-biosecurity/be-a-biosecurity-warrior.
For more on our management programs for weeds on the MidCoast, head to www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/weeds.