Torres Strait Exotic Fruit Fly Eradication Program

The fruit fly problem

Fruit flies are the world's most destructive fruit pests. Two of the most economically damaging in Australia are the native Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and the introduced Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).

Many species of fruit fly that do not exist in Australia would potentially cause major disruption to trade in horticultural products if they gained entry. Australia’s horticultural production is valued at over $9 billion and employs over 60,000 people. A large proportion of that production is susceptible to attack by fruit flies.

Preventing exotic fruit fly incursion from the north

Many of these exotic species of fruit flies are present in countries that are near neighbours to Australia.

Torres Strait is a small but strategically important part of Australia and the state of Queensland. Its proximity to the New Guinea landmass poses a unique and serious biosecurity risk to Australia. There is a permanent, native population of the target exotic fruit fly species in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea immediately adjacent to the Torres Strait islands.

Pests move into the Torres Strait by natural means, such as wind currents and also through human assisted pathways such as vessel movements and unauthorised foreign fishing activity.

Response activities for exotic fruit flies began in 1996 following an incursion of Asian papaya fruit fly, now known as Oriental fruit fly. This incursion instigated the Long-Term Containment Strategy for Exotic Fruit Flies in Torres Strait which since, has continued to demonstrate its effectiveness and benefits to Australia and its horticultural industries.

The strategy transitioned to a response plan, the National Exotic Fruit Fly in Torres Strait Eradication Program, managed under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) in 2015, and targets three exotic fruit flies: Melon fly; Oriental fruit fly; and New Guinea fruit fly. The aim of the response plan is to monitor and eradicate these pests in Torres Strait before they can become established and have a major impact on trade and production.

Based on technical advice and trapping data, it is predicted that without these activities, exotic fruit fly incursions on mainland Australia would likely occur within 12-18 months. This scenario would carry a potential eradication cost many times the amount currently invested in the response plan.

Revised response plan

The National Exotic Fruit Fly in Torres Strait Eradication Program response plan has been reviewed to ensure it remains effective and was endorsed by the National Management Group in June 2021. The revised response plan is cost-shared under the EPPRD and is an extension of the 2015-18 and 2018-21 response plans that have been highly successful in monitoring and eradicating incursions of the three target exotic fruit flies.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is the lead agency implementing the response plan, with technical and operational support being given through the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy, which is a program that sits within the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

This program is part of important collaboration happening right across northern Australia to protect Australian agricultural industries from pests and diseases which are increasingly present in our region.

Fruit fly monitoring in Torres Strait is also part of a broader national fruit fly trapping network to provide early warning of fruit fly pests and supports crucial market access for Australian horticultural exports.

The response plan is supported by other non-cost shared activities including the host fruit rearing program which monitors for other exotic fruit fly species.

About the target species

Melon fly (Zeugodacus cucurbitae) is a serious pest of cucurbit crops, and may also affect other crops including avocado, bean, cherry, cowpeas, guava, lychee, navel orange, papaya, passionfruit and tomato.

Melon fly.
Image source: Pest and Disease Image Library (PaDIL)

See more images of Melon fly on the PaDIL website.

Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis)is a highly invasive species with a very wide host range including; avocado, banana, bean, capsicum, cashew, cherry, coffee, cucumber, eggplant, grapefruit, guava, lemon, lime, mandarin, mango, navel orange, papaya, peach, passionfruit and tomato.

Oriental fruit fly.
Image source: PaDIL

See more images of Oriental fruit fly on the PaDIL website.

New Guinea fruit fly (Bactrocera trivialis) is a major pest of chilli, grapefruit, guava and peach.

New Guinea fruit fly.
Image source: PaDIL

See more images of New Guinea fruit fly on the PaDIL website.

Preventing fruit fly damage

Anyone with trees or crops that are hosts to fruit fly need to be vigilant to signs of a fruit fly infestation. 

Fruit flies become active after periods of rain or high humidity. To prevent fruit fly outbreaks, do not allow fallen fruit to accumulate under trees. Always pick up fallen fruit and put it in a sealed bag before you dispose of it.

Get more tips from the Prevent fruit fly website.

Reporting exotic fruit fly

If you think you have seen an exotic fruit fly, you need to report it to the national Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. This number will put you in touch with your state or territory’s department of agriculture.

Travelling interstate with fruit

If you’re travelling interstate be aware that most states do not allow the entry of fruit across their border.  Check the Interstate Quarantine website before you travel.

More information