An Australian biosecurity expert believes Tasmania could be at risk of losing its fruit fly-free status as a result of climate change.
Anthony Clarke form the Australian Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre told ABC Rural that even a minimal rise in average annual temperatures could result in an incursion.
“A reduction of even two or three really hard cold days in winter increases the chances of fruit fly surviving during the winter period,” Clarke explained.
A fruit fly outbreak would have significant ramifications for the island state, which enjoys privileged access into a number of Asian markets as a result of its clean and green environment. This includes being the only Australian state with direct airfreight access into mainland China for apples and cherries.
While Clarke said it may be possible for fruit flies to fly across Bass Strait from Victoria, where the pest has been declared an epidemic, an outbreak would more likely be caused by flies arriving in fruit carried over from the mainland.
Biosecurity Tasmania general manager Lloyd Klump said the body was working to develop new signage at airport and ferry terminals across the state to warn inbound tourists about the risks fruit fly presents. Klump added there was no immediate concern for alarm.
“As climate changes, that situation may change, but that's going to take a long time,” Klump told ABC Rural. "That may take decades."