No signs of white spot in Moreton Bay prawns at the moment: says minister

STATE-wide testing of thousands of prawns and crabs for the virus that causes white spot disease indicates it has not spread to other parts of Queensland and may not be established in Moreton Bay.

DISEASE SEARCH: Banana prawns on the sorting tray of a Brisbane River trawler. Photo: Fisheries Department.

DISEASE SEARCH: Banana prawns on the sorting tray of a Brisbane River trawler. Photo: Fisheries Department.

TALKS UNDER WAY: Fishermen, Biosecurity Queensland and federal government staff at a meeting at Victoria Point after white spot disease broke out.

TALKS UNDER WAY: Fishermen, Biosecurity Queensland and federal government staff at a meeting at Victoria Point after white spot disease broke out.

Acting Fisheries Minister Anthony Lynham said the negative results were encouraging and suggested movement restrictions were working.

White spot disease broke out in Logan River prawn farms in December and then quickly was found in the waterway and the adjacent Moreton Bay.

Tough restrictions have since been in place on the movement of marine products in an effort to halt the disease’s spread.

Dr Lynham said the government’s aim was to eradicate white spot.

“All tests on 4122 prawn and crab samples collected from April to the end of September from 38 locations from Moreton Bay to Cairns, and including the Logan River and Brisbane River, were negative and that is extremely good news for the industry,” he said.

“These tests indicate the disease control activities are effective in stopping the spread of the virus and that is why the movement restrictions will remain in place.”

Dr Lynham said surveillance had been conducted by Biosecurity Queensland with the help of commercial prawn fishers.

There would be no let-up in the testing regime as part of an agreed national surveillance plan.

“These results will contribute to the national proof of freedom surveillance required to regain international disease-free status for white spot disease,” he said.

“We need to have two years of consecutively negative test results to prove the disease is no longer present in Australian waterways.”

Tests will start again early next year. White spot broke out at Darwin in 2000 but has not been found there since.

How outbreaks occur has caused a fierce battle, with commercial fishers asking for the banning of imports of Asian raw prawns and other products.

The disease was first discovered in China in 1992 and has since spread through prawn farms in Asia, the US and South America. 

Dr Lynham praised Logan River prawn farmers and Moreton Bay amateur and commercial fishers for their contribution to the eradication program.

“White spot disease has been devastating on those farmers and fishers,” he said.

“Those restrictions prohibit the movement of uncooked prawns, yabbies and marine worms out of an area stretching from Caloundra to the border with New South Wales and west to Ipswich.

The government has spent more than $15 million on the biosecurity response and made $20 million in concessional loans available to prawn farmers hit by the disease.

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