Trespassing pig hunters pose serious risk to $600 million banana industry

The Australian Bananas Growers’ Council has warned that pig hunters illegally entering banana farms pose a serious threat to the nation’s banana industry.

The ABGC has raised concerns following growing reports of illegal hunting activity on Cassowary Coast banana farms, prompting fears these offenders are increasing the risk of spreading the devastating soil borne disease Panama tropical race 4 (TR4).

“Panama TR4 is a soil borne disease that can be transferred by people, animals, vehicles and other machinery entering and exiting properties,” ABGC director Leon Collins explained.

“It is for this reason that the majority of banana growers now have serious biosecurity measures in place to not only protect their own livelihoods but the future of Australia’s $600 million banana industry.”

Mr Collins said local growers had reported witnessing pig hunters pulling up at banana farms in vehicles and letting hunting dogs loose onto properties.

He said the ABGC had also recently become aware of illegal hunting activity via social media, with some Facebook users even detailing the lengths they go to ensure their vehicles cannot be identified.

“Trespassing onto private land is not only illegal, but people, vehicles and dogs entering banana farms puts our entire industry in serious jeopardy,” he said.

“Feral pigs are a major concern for growers as they too can transfer disease between properties. However, ABGC has employed a professional feral pig aerial shooter and is part of a co-ordinated feral pig management program with growers, government and community abiding by all biosecurity obligations.”

“Pigs hunters who trespass onto farms put all of this challenging, but effective effort at risk.”

Mr Collins adding: “We are definitely not here to get pig hunters off side, however it is imperative that we get the message across to the minority that may be doing the wrong thing, that their actions could have absolutely devastating impacts by spreading this soil-borne disease.”

He said some hunters may be continuing to access properties that they had been given permission to hunt on in the past – before the detection of TR4 – assuming they still have the farmer’s consent.

“A farmer, years ago, may have given you permission to hunt pigs on their property, but this doesn’t mean you have the same freedom to do so today. The message is – too much is at stake and our industry needs you to stay away from these farms.”

“It’s simple. No permission, no entry.”

The warning to amateur pig hunters comes as the banana industry awaits confirmation of a suspected case of TR4 on a third Far Northern banana farm detected last month.

Under Queensland Law those caught trespassing onto private land can face a significant fine or even jail.

All Queenslanders need to take an active role in managing biosecurity risks under their control. Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, individuals and organisations must take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread a pest, disease or contaminant.

Anyone witnessing illegal pig hunting activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or their local police station.