What are stink bugs and why are they a problem?

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is a pest that is native to East Asia but has become established in the US as well as many European countries, where it has caused severe damage to crops. Authorities in Australia and New Zealand have introduced tough regulations to ensure the bugs are not inadvertently transported into these countries on or in imported products.

What has changed in the stink bug regulations for this season?

One major change is that many more countries are affected by the regulations: they now cover almost every nation in Europe. The list of high-risk countries for stink bugs has been expanded from 10 to 33 in Australia and from 16 to 33 in New Zealand. Countries added to the list since the 2018 / 2019 season include Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey. The rules are more closely harmonised between Australia and New Zealand this season, but there are still differences. The stink bug season is a month longer in Australia, among others.

Click here for a list of countries affected by the regulations in Australia.

When is the next stink bug season?

The next stink bug season runs from 1 September 2019 to 31 May 2020 in Australia, and until 30 April 2020 in New Zealand. All cargo shipped to and arriving in the countries between these dates must be treated to reduce the chance of it carrying stink bugs.

What actions do cargo owners need to take?

Goods being shipped to Australia and New Zealand from countries deemed high-risk must be treated offshore by a treatment provider registered and approved by the Australian Department of Agriculture or New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Cargo that does not comply risks being turned away from port. “Cargo owners must also assess the biosecurity of their entire supply chain,” explains Alex Conjour, vice president, port and cargo operations, WW Ocean. “That means working with truckers and rail and barge providers to ensure stink bugs can’t hijack your equipment. It is the shipper’s responsibility to provide clean cargo.”

What are the treatment options?

WW Solutions has invested in treatment facilities at Zeebrugge, and Baltimore for US-Oceania trade, and encourages cargo owners to explore the options available at these ports. Treatment technologies include heat treatment of cargo and fumigation using sulfuryl fluoride. The Australian Department of Agriculture has set minimum standards for these treatments that must be adhered to.

Learn more about the stink bug threat.

Are the regulations likely to change?

WW Ocean believes there are other countries that could be added to the list of high-risk zones, including the UK and Scandinavia. China should also be included. It is surprising that Belgium, a major export hub to Oceania because of the port of Zeebrugge, has only now been placed on the list of high-risk countries. Further changes to regulations may be inevitable.

What can I do to help prevent stink bugs in Oceania?

All exporters of products to Oceania, importers, treatment and logistics providers need to work together to combat the threat of stink bugs. Exporters should take the opportunity to not only engage with WW Ocean, but also the Australian Department of Agriculture and New Zealand MPI on their bio-security regulations.

“We need the industry to continue to advocate for effective regulations which target the threat at all origins and provide multiple options to mitigate it, including onshore treatment for RoRo in Australia and New Zealand,” says Alex Conjour. “This BMSB challenge is not simply an administrative task which needs to be checked off. The threat is real, with dramatic environmental and financial consequences for shippers and carriers if live bugs are discovered on your cargo in Australia and New Zealand.”