The Federal Agriculture Department is reviewing its quarantine procedures after the ‘‘deeply regrettable’’ destruction of irreplaceable plants sent to Queensland from France.
The collection of valuable specimens dating back to the mid-1800s sent from the Museum of Natural History in Paris to the Queensland Herbarium was destroyed by biosecurity officers in late March after officials deemed its accompanying paperwork insufficient.
In a statement, the department acknowledged that ‘‘unintentionally proceeding with the destruction of specimens was premature’’ while the Queensland facility was still in contact with quarantine officials.
‘‘This is a deeply regrettable occurrence, but it does highlight the importance of the shared responsibility of Australia’s biosecurity system, and the need for adherence to import conditions,’’ the department said.
Multiple ‘‘corrective measures’’ had been enforced since the specimens were destroyed to prevent the situation happening again, the department said.
According to the department, the package arrived in January with a declared value of just $2 and without prior warning about its valuable contents.
It also didn’t list the exact specimens and whether or not they were preserved.
As such, the department held the botanical collection before eventually receiving more information from the herbarium in early March.
But this extra information was also found to be insufficient and, when even more material wasn’t supplied, the specimens were destroyed.
‘‘The department acknowledges that destruction of the specimens should not have proceeded while communication between the department and the intended recipient prevailed,’’ the statement said.
Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria chair Michelle Waycott said the now-incinerated specimens were irreplaceable and dated back to the mid-1800s.
She predicted the French institution would ban sending similar collections to Australia in the future.
‘‘That would certainly be my response if it was my herbarium this had happened to,’’ Professor Waycott said.