Quarantine – Protecting Australia’s Unique Environment
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) has trained beagles to check the incoming baggage, mail and cargo across Australian points of entry. The beagle’s sense of smell is 100 times more sensitive than a human. They are trained to detect 30 different items of concern, to sit down and wait next to a bag when they detect a risky item.
AQIS manages the risk to Australia of unwanted pests and diseases, which is essential for the conservation of the nation’s plants, animals and agricultural industries.
Australia’s geographic isolation in the days before mass air travel and international trade served as a natural barrier. In today’s shrinking world, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service plays a vital role in helping to maintain Australia’s favourable pest and disease status.
Australian quarantine measures are among the most stringent in the world. Every year about 11 million passengers and crew pass through Australian seaports and airports, creating a significant challenge for quarantine surveillance. Almost every passenger arriving in Australia now has their luggage checked on arrival by either a quarantine officer, detector dog or X-ray machine. Even international mail sent to Australia is screened, as well as all air and sea cargo.
Australia is extremely vigilant about remaining free of exotic pests and diseases, which could have potentially disastrous effects on Australia’s current favourable animal, plant and human health status. Such pests and diseases could be carried by people or animals, in animal products such as meat, in plants or plant products such as timber, or in soil on machinery.
Travellers to Australia must declare anything made from plants or animals-including meat, dairy, eggs or other animal products; wooden articles; fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts; and live animals and plants. Some plants and animals must be isolated at quarantine stations, so that any pest or disease risks can be identified and prevented from entering Australia.
The penalties for breaching Australia’s quarantine laws include fines or imprisonment.