News and Views

No definitive source of prawn disease has been found

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources continues to work collaboratively with the Queensland Government to determine the origin of the outbreak of white spot disease in prawn farms in south-east Queensland.

QLD Deputy Secretary Lyn O’Connell said media commentary suggesting a definitive cause of the disease outbreak had been found was not correct.

“The department continues to investigate how this outbreak of white spot disease has occurred, but no definite link has been determined at this point,” Ms O’Connell said.

“We are still looking at a number of pathways that may have resulted in the white spot disease incursion in Queensland, including imported feed or probiotics, contaminated equipment, or even discarded uncooked prawns—or bits of prawns—that were purchased to eat.

“In the course of our investigations, the department did come across recreational fishers using imported prawns labelled for human consumption for bait in the Logan River.

“Subsequent testing of the product did return positive results for the virus.

“What this tells us is that fishers using infected imported prawns for bait is one possible pathway for this disease to get into our river system and onto prawn farms—and is why prawns imported for human consumption should never be used for bait.”

The Director of Biosecurity suspended imports of uncooked prawns earlier to ensure that pathway does not present an unacceptable risk to a currently vulnerable industry.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for managing Australia’s biosecurity system which is in place to safeguard Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries worth over $60 billion to our economy.

Biosecurity is a shared responsibility and it’s imperative that Australian industry and the community are aware of their obligations.