Live fruit fly larvae found in imported watermelon

A male Queensland fruit fly was spotted in Devonport last year, triggering a massive biosecurity response. (File photo)
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A male Queensland fruit fly was spotted in Devonport last year, triggering a massive biosecurity response. (File photo)

Imports of watermelon from Tonga have been suspended after live fruit fly larvae were detected at the New Zealand border.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said the Pacific fruit fly larvae were detected in a consignment of watermelons during an inspection at the Ports of Auckland on Tuesday.

On Friday, the ministry said it had temporarily suspended imports of watermelon from Tonga pending an investigation into non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forestry and Fisheries in Tonga.

The suspension would be effective immediately.

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Until the suspension was lifted, all watermelon from Tonga arriving at New Zealand’s border would be held with the option of destruction or re-shipment.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff
Devonport residents were advised to be on look out after a single male Queensland fruit fly was discovered in the Auckland suburb. (First published February 2019)

A separate consignment of 29 tonnes of watermelon from Tonga was already being held at the border and would not be inspected or cleared.

MPI director of animal and plant health, Peter Thomson, said the detection showed Biosecurity New Zealand’s processes are working well.

There was no suggestion any fruit fly had got into New Zealand.

“As a precautionary measure, Biosecurity NZ has imposed an immediate suspension on fresh watermelon imports from Tonga,” Thomson said.

“The length of the suspension will depend on how quickly Tongan authorities can investigate the situation and put measures in place to assure New Zealand to assure New Zealand that their treatment processes are working.”

Imports of watermelon from Tonga have been suspended after the discovery of live fruit fly larvae. (File photo)
Marion van Dijk/Stuff
Imports of watermelon from Tonga have been suspended after the discovery of live fruit fly larvae. (File photo)

The discovery of a male Queensland fruit fly on Auckland’s North Shore put the suburb of Devonport and surrounding areas into a fruit and vegetable lockdown early last year.

Biosecurity New Zealand placed legal controls on the movement of fruit and vegetables in Devonport after the fly was collected from a trap and identified.

In January, MPI declared the country "free of the Queensland fruit fly", after an almost year-long operation.

The most likely way fruit flies arrive in New Zealand is in fresh fruit and vegetables.

Biosecurity New Zealand has strict requirements on the importation of fruit and vegetables to minimise this risk.

Air and sea passengers are prohibited from bringing fresh fruit and vegetables into the country.

Stuff