It is recognised people will want to know how the new biosecurity system will affect them and as such answers to the most common questions received are below. If anyone has further questions or would like more detail, please call into the Conservation Office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will I still be able to bring able to bring in fruit and vegetables on the flight?
Yes. Fresh food is precious and we don’t want to stop anyone brining it in. There is a risk that animals like spiders, flies and ants will arrive with the fruit, but by taking sensible steps this risk can be reduced. If individuals are bringing in less than 50kg of common fruits and vegetables, all that is required is that it is clean of any dirt and mud, that it doesn’t have any pests on it, and that it is labelled and declared on the form when they arrive at the Airhead in the same way they would for alcohol. For companies that will be bringing in more than 50kg, proof that they have treated the produce so that it is free of pests will be required.
Will anything be prohibited?
Very few things will be prohibited completely. As is the case now, the import of parrots or monkeys would not be permitted. There are other things that can only brought in with a licence such as live animals for example, and whilst the import of cats, dogs and freshwater fish would be permitted it is unlikely the import of other species would be.
Can I still bring in honey?
Yes. St Helena prohibit the import of honey because they want to protect their bee hives from diseases that can be spread through honey. Ascension has no beekeepers so there will be no restriction on importing honey.
Will friends and family in other countries still be able to send things to me on the ship?
Yes. They will just need to make sure they meet the standards that will be on the website for certain types of goods and ensure they declare these. For example, sending a package of clothes or frozen food would be the same as now. If they were sending fresh produce they would need to make sure it was clean of mud and pests and that they package, label it and tick the box to declare it on the form. If people are sending live plants or plant cuttings, they would need a licence in advance.
Will I have to fill out lots of forms?
There will be some forms, but as few as possible since neither the public or AIG employees enjoy paperwork. Where possible most goods won’t need any special action and of those that do most just need to follow the standards with no extra paperwork. The highest risk imports, such as live animals and plants, will require a licence application.
How much will a licence cost?
There will be no additional licence costs as a result of the new system. The cost of a licence to bring in cats, dogs and other animals will be the same as now. There will be no cost for any other licences required.
Will food be more expensive in the shops?
No. Importers will be asked to follow the standards set and this could require some extra measures to be taken, but this will simply bring Ascension up to the same level as most other countries, such as St Helena or the Falkland’s. Shops that would be affected have been consulted and all felt their suppliers would be able to meet these requirements without imposing extra costs.
Will you be inspecting everyone’s luggage and parcels?
Some inspections will need to be carried out to ensure that the rules are followed, but everything that comes in will not be inspected. It will be done in a similar way to customs inspections and often at the same time, by the same people, to make it more efficient.
What happens when you find something?
The response to finding something will depend what it is and what cargo it is on. If it is couple of spiders they will be sprayed with insecticide or sucked up with handheld vacuums. If it is a large ant nest, then it might be necessary to fumigate the container. At all times authorities will be trying to make sure the threat is destroyed without damaging any goods.
Will there be fines if people break the rules?
Only in exceptional circumstances. The primary aim is to control the threat posed by the item and then work with the importer to stop it from happening again. If somebody is sent a bag of muddy potatoes, the response will be to wash them and to ask the individual to get in touch with the person who sent them to make sure they clean them first next time. If that happens multiple times for the same person and they are clearly taking no action to try to follow the rules, then it may be necessary to take firmer action.
How much will this cost AIG to run?
It will take some staff time to issue licences, carry out inspections and treat anything that does arrive, but where possible this has been combined with existing customs checks. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has generously funded part of the salary of a member of staff to carry out biosecurity, which will cover a lot of the additional time required. It is worth remembering that AIG staff, as well as those from other companies, already spend a lot of time dealing with the introduced species the island already has. It will be much less effort, and much more cost efficient, if new species can be prevented from coming in the first place rather than cleaning up the mess afterwards. If you have a leaking tap, the first thing you do is turn the water off before starting to mop the floor. The new biosecurity system is the equivalent of turning off the tap so authorities don’t spend the entire time mopping!