Invasive marine species are types of marine wildlife which have been transported or introduced into an environment outside of their normal habitat. When introduced into another ecosystem, these species can survive and go on to reproduce and establish a population, which can potentially threaten the local environment.
All marine vessels and equipment sourced from outside Australian waters which enter into the Prelude operational area have the potential to introduce or transport invasive marine species into the surrounding environment. (View a map of the Prelude's operational area here).
The primary means of introducing invasive species is via vessels which support Prelude. Invasive species could be transported into the area by either attaching to a vessel (biofouling) or being transported in ballast water.
The nature of activities supporting operations around Prelude means that, should invasive species become established, there is the potential for a support vessel to subsequently transport the species to other locations. If the species is carried to shallower, more hospitable waters, it could begin to compete with native species and ultimately lead to decreased biodiversity in affected areas.
In the unlikely event of an invasive species becoming established as a result of Prelude activities it could be very difficult to eradicate.
The combination of unfavourable conditions and the controls that are routinely applied to support vessels, combined with their short time in the operational area, means the likelihood of an invasive species becoming established is extremely small. In the unlikely event an invasive species is introduced into the Prelude operational area, the water depths mean the creatures are unlikely to survive or become established. However, this doesn’t change the potentially major effect.
Key Controls and mitigations
- Large vessels with an anti-foul coating requirement are to maintain up-to-date antifouling coating certification.
- Smaller vessels are required to maintain an on-board anti-fouling declaration.
- Support vessels entering directly into the operational area from international waters will have clearance via the Maritime Arrivals Reporting System or other approved system.
- Vessels coming from overseas will have sufficient Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) clearance including a ballast water report if required.
- Only low risk ballast water will be discharged within the Prelude operational area.
- Conduct opportunistic remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) surveys as part of Prelude FLNG hull inspections.
- Provide footage from ROV surveys to an expert to confirm presence/absence of potential invasive species where video content requires expert examination.