A SIX-month closure of waters in an exclusion zone immediately adjacent to three operational NSW prawn farms at Yamba has been declared by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
The exclusion zone aims to mitigate the risk of spreading white spot disease to the prawn farms by excluding recreational fishing activity close to the water intake of the prawn farms. White spot disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects various crustacean species. Detected in Queensland in late-2016, the disease caused severe impacts on the southeast Queensland farmed prawn industry.
DPI Deputy Director General Fisheries Geoff Allan said white spot disease has not been detected in NSW and extensive sampling of NSW prawn farms and wild prawn stocks continues to show no evidence of the disease in NSW. “DPI is introducing the closure as an interim measure while prawn farmers develop on-farm risk management strategies for the virus in line with those being developed nationally by the Australian Prawn Farmers Association,” Dr Allan said. “An independent report into the effectiveness of biosecurity controls on uncooked prawn imports released by the Australian Government’s Inspector-General of Biosecurity Dr Helen Scott-Orr in December 2017 identified one measure to reduce the risk of infected prawns entering prawn farms is to prevent recreational fishing in close proximity to farms. White spot disease does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.
“It is crucial that people fishing or crabbing in our waterways do not use prawns intended for human consumption as bait or berley, as this could spread the virus to new areas. A white spot disease outbreak in NSW prawn farms could result in a $6 million economic loss to the state of NSW.”
The closure is declared under Section 8 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 and will be in force until June 22, 2018. Dr Allan said recreational fishers should refer to specific details of affected areas on the DPI website dpi.nsw.gov.au
“The closure applies to waters on either side of the three prawn farms’ property boundaries, and about 100m offshore,” he said. The temporary closure is necessary to minimise the threat to NSW prawn farms from white spot disease.