Dodgy Importers Threaten Prawn Industry

The importation of green (or raw) prawns into Australia will be suspended following an outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland.

White spot disease has hit five farms near the Logan River in Queensland's southeast, and has been detected in wild prawns in the river itself. The main cause of the outbreak is imported green prawns, sold for ‘human consumption,’ being used as bait.

Criminal charges are likely to be laid against at least one prawn importer suspected of deliberately flouting biosecurity controls, while another four are being investigated. Under Australia's quarantine regulations, a sample from all consignments of imported green prawns must be sent for testing to ensure they are free of 'white spot.' But some unscrupulous importers have been deliberately selecting only healthy prawns from consignments known to be infected with white spot, and sending those to be tested.

The white spot incursions are spread across five properties on the Logan River, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. About $50 million worth of green prawns are imported annually. Once they get into the waterways, they can infect all prawn farms in the region. Prawns which were being raised in ponds at the infected farms have had to be destroyed since white spot was confirmed last month. The effect of this down the line, of course, is that it is also threatening our prawn export industry.

A ban has also been imposed on imported uncooked prawns being used for bait, because infected raw prawns can spread white spot to animals that eat them, even if they have been frozen first. Note: The import suspension does not affect cooked prawns, because the cooking process destroys white spot.