Public views are being sought on proposed strengthened measures to reduce the risk of exotic spiders hitchhiking to New Zealand in bunches of table grapes from California

13 June 2002

A detailed assessment of the biosecurity risk to New Zealand posed by exotic spiders entering on imported table grapes has been completed and its associated documents were released for public submission today, with submissions required by 24 July 2002.  

Trade in table grapes from California was suspended in November 2001 following the post-border detection of four live black widow spiders and a number of other exotic spiders over a three month period. 

A special biosecurity project team was convened to produce the assessment, consisting of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ministry of Health (MoH). The process was led by MAF's Indigenous Flora and Fauna team.

Project spokesperson Christine Reed of MAF, said the risk assessment consists of three separate documents covering: environmental risk of entry and establishment of exotic spider species including black widow spiders; potential health impacts and, recommended measures to reduce the risk to achieve an acceptable level of protection.

"The inter-agency approach we have followed has allowed us to bring a broad level of technical expertise to what is a complex biosecurity issue, to ensure a result that sets a robust and rigorous baseline for us to operate from in the future," said Ms Reed.

"Put simply we began from the basis that any trade involves accepting some risk and achieving zero risk isn't realistically practical. The agencies then worked towards deciding likely levels of risk for a variety of situations. Because we are assessing the risk from the different perspectives (to the environment and to human health), we then need to weigh up all available information to ensure the assessment is fair and balanced.

"While the project team have thoroughly examined the potential options for risk mitigation at a level appropriate for the level of risk there will be quite possibly still low numbers of post border detections of exotic spiders associated with table grapes. Post-border risk reduction measures have been recommended however to further reduce the public health risk of these spiders.

"It is also part of our role to raise awareness and understanding of biosecurity issues and to increase our level of preparation for the contingency that new species, including exotic spiders, will be found in New Zealand from time to time.

"This assessment illustrates that biosecurity risks are not limited to the potential impact of pests and diseases on our primary sector industries - they include risks to public health and to New Zealand's unique indigenous flora and fauna." she said.

For further information contact:
Christine Reed, MAF Biosecurity Coordination Group
(04) 470 2576

Philippa White, Communications Adviser, MAF Biosecurity
(04) 498 9948 or 025 223 1875
Internet links to the three risk assessment documents are located at:




Last Updated: 08 October 2010

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