Scientists fail to find prawn disease in Logan River and Moreton Bay. Restrictions remain on amateur line fishers

TWO and a half years after an exotic disease was introduced to the Logan River, tests have found no sign of white spot disease in prawns and fish.

NO signs: Scientists have not been able to find any signs of white spot disease in the Logan River or Moreton Bay.

NO signs: Scientists have not been able to find any signs of white spot disease in the Logan River or Moreton Bay.

Production is set to double later this year and if negative tests continue, Australia will be declared white spot free next year.

Millions of dollars worth of prawn stocks were destroyed after the disease was found, putting prawn farmers out of business.

The disease was thought to have been introduced by amateur fishermen using imported supermarket seafood like prawns for bait.

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said prawn and marine worm samples taken from Moreton Bay, Logan and Brisbane Rivers all returned negative results.

"This is the second consecutive surveillance round conducted by my department which has returned negative results for the virus that causes white spot disease," Mr Furner said.

"...This means everyone must continue to remain vigilant to ensure the disease is contained and does not spread.

"I thank the industry for its resilience and patience during this hard time, and the general community, especially recreational fishers for heeding our messages and helping stop the spread of the disease."

Australian Prawn Farmers Association president Matt West said businesses had gone through much financial and mental stress with Logan farms having to shut down for lengthy periods in order to eradicate the disease.

"Everyone has done an amazing job, but we've had a wake-up call to remain vigilant, not just for white spot but other diseases coming into the country," he said.

"It's imperative we boost exotic disease testing regimes at our borders to prevent any other major disease outbreaks.

"An end to the white spot disease outbreak would be a very good result indeed, not only for the Logan farmers but Queensland's prawn farming industry, which is currently enjoying a considerable, state-wide, expansionary phase.

"...There's such unlimited demand for our prawns. Seafood suppliers take everything we can produce."

White spot is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans, prawns and crabs, but it is not harmful to human health and seafoods are safe to eat.

Line fishing is not permitted around the Logan River prawn farm inlet and outlet channels and this measure will remain in force.

So will movement restrictions for raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms in south east Queensland.

Three of seven prawn farms restocked ponds in summer and the biggest operator harvested 421 tonnes.

Mr Furner said the global aquaculture industry was valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars and Queensland was well placed to take advantage.

"Overseas, aquaculture is rapidly overtaking the wild caught fishery in value," Mr Furner said.

"In Queensland the industry is valued at over $120 million and rising fast, with the production of prawns making up the lion's share of this figure.

"To boost the sector further, the government has identified six Aquaculture Development Areas in the Townsville, Whitsunday, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone regions."