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Illicit local trade of prohibited plants put under the biosecurity spotlight

Posted on 10/12/2021

Crime Stoppers SA has partnered with Green Adelaide and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions to tackle the illegal trade of aquatic weeds, Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Salvinia spp (Salvinia molesta or Salvinia auriculata).

Crime Stoppers SA CEO, Nigel Smart, said it is an offence to sell either noxious weed types in South Australia, and called on the community to help protect South Australia’s waterways and environment by sharing what they know about people who trade them online and in markets.

“These floating weed varieties are most commonly found in backyard ponds because they are hardy and grow quick, but when they are dumped or allowed to spread into our waterways they pose serious harm to our native fish, plants and animals,” Mr Smart said.

“Salvinia spp and Water Hyacinth will block waterways and reduce water quality, which ultimately impacts on outdoor pleasures of South Australians who enjoy getting out into the great outdoors for boating, fishing and swimming. The only people who win are those who are illegally selling them in the first place,” he said.

“People may not know that these floating weeds for sale at their local market or online are actually illegal to sell or trade so this campaign helps people to identify both varieties and encourages them to share what they know with Crime Stoppers, because stopping the trade is critical to minimising the devastating impact these weeds cause.”

Mr Smart said raising community awareness and action is crucial to preventing the prohibited selling or swapping of these plants.

“It may be that friends provide a cutting to you because it’s thrived in their own pond at home – but that’s all it takes to put our environment, economy and community at risk. It may not be an offence to have these weeds at home, but if they’re found on private property they can still be seized and destroyed by authorities.”

“If you know or suspect someone is selling these prohibited plants we encourage people to take a photo if possible and share that image and any additional information by going to www.crimestopperssa.com.au.”

As one of the world’s worst invasive aquatic plants, Water Hyacinth is a major pest of creeks, rivers and dams. Similarly, Salvinia spp. is a fern-like invasive aquatic weed that can choke waterways by floating on still or slow-moving water and covering the water surface with a thick mat of vegetation. This fast-growing weed shades out any submerged plant life and impedes oxygen exchange, making the water unsuitable for fish and other animals. Deliberately introduced into Australia around 1894 as an ornamental plant for garden ponds, and eventually discarded into waterways. Almost every infestation in southern Australia has resulted from deliberate planting or disposal of unwanted plants readily sourced from the aquatic trade.

Water Hyacinth is declared under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 throughout the whole of the State of South Australia. Its entry to South Australia, movement or transport on a public road by itself or as a contaminant, or sale by itself or as a contaminant, are prohibited. Notification of infestations is necessary to ensure these are destroyed. Landowners are required to destroy any water hyacinth plants growing on their properties.

It is illegal to move or sell Salvinia spp. in South Australia and a maximum fine of $50,000 can apply for those caught selling it. Native to Brazil, Salvinia spp. is declared under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 . When removed from a backyard pond Salvinia spp. can be destroyed by being placed in a plastic bag and left in the sun until completely broken down, then placed in the general waste bin (not with green garden waste).

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