Vigilance amid prawn threat

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
Fishers are urged do their part to prevent white spot disease.
Camera IconFishers are urged do their part to prevent white spot disease. Credit: WA NEWS, Lee Griffith

White spot disease is threatening to make its way to West Australian shores, causing the Department of Fisheries to call on recreational fishers to do their part to prevent the devastating disease.

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects crustaceans and has now been detected on five prawn farms in south-east Queensland.

The disease does not pose a threat to human health but it causes high rates of mortality in prawn stock and could devastate Australia’s $360 million prawn industry.

If WSD is established in WA, it could pose a threat to the State’s freshwater and marine crustaceans in both farmed and wild fisheries including prawns, crabs, lobsters and marron.

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Until this incident, Australia had been one of the few countries in the world with a prawn farming industry free of WSD.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce announced recently the indefinite suspension of raw prawn imports by the director of biosecurity after the disease was detected in prawns sold for human consumption. This is the first use of the suspension power since the new Biosecurity Act 2015 came into force.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure we deal with this and try and nip this in the bud,” Mr Joyce said.

He said criminal charges were being pursued against one importer suspected of deliberately flouting biosecurity controls while another four are being investigated by authorities.

Recfishwest operations manager Leyland Campbell said the situation required recreational fishers to help protect their aquatic environment.

“Some fishers might be tempted to buy food-grade prawns to use as bait, but as imported prawns come from countries where WSD is very common, it’s not worth taking the chance,” he said.

“When you weigh this up against the potential loss of prized catches like prawns and marron if WSD was to impact WA, it’s an easy decision to talk to your local bait supplier about alternative baits to prawns.”

Fishers have been asked by the Department of Fisheries to keep an eye out in their fishing travels for WSD and anyone using prawns as bait, and immediately report anything to the FishWatch 24-hour hotline on 1800 815 507.

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