white spot disease prawns
A prawn affected by white spot disease. Photo: daf.qld.gov.au

Australian and QLD governments work together on white spot outbreak

THE Commonwealth and Queensland governments today reaffirmed their shared commitment to support prawn farmers impacted by white spot virus and pledged to continue to work together to eradicate the disease.

Commonwealth Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston and Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne said dealing with the outbreak was one of the highest priorities for both governments.

“Minister Byrne and I have had extensive face-to-face discussions on the best way forward for the Queensland prawn industry,” Minister Ruston said. “On our visits to the farms on the Logan River, we have both been struck by the determination and resilience of the farmers and we appreciate the need to maintain the closest co-operation to do all that is possible to get them back into production at the earliest opportunity. Minister Byrne and I have seen first-hand just how devastating this outbreak has been.”

“Despite the tireless work that has been undertaken, it is disappointing that all prawn farms with stock on the Logan River have tested positive for the disease,” Minister Byrne said. “Our government remains focused on working with the affected prawn farmers to a state where they could recommence production later this year if they so chose to.”

Both Ministers stressed their commitment to reach agreement with the industry on financial assistance. Minister Byrne said the Queensland Government committed in early December to reimburse prawn farmers for the costs they incurred under direction of Biosecurity Queensland, which has led the biosecurity response.

“There has been a very significant effort to date,” Minister Byrne said. “The Queensland Government has spent about $4.4 million and expects to spend an additional $12 million during the first half of 2017 on a response that has involved up to 100 biosecurity officers.”

“The Australian Government has provided the State Government and industry with up to $1.74 million to help with costs incurred dealing with the outbreak response and to also help with biosecurity preparedness for future risks – with $400,000 of that money going directly to the farmers to assist with some of their costs,” Minister Ruston said.

The national Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases remains of the view that the disease can be eradicated.

“From day one, Biosecurity Queensland has worked in close co-operation with the national committee and at every stage the response has been approved and endorsed by national experts, including the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer, state and territory chief veterinary officers or directors of fisheries, representatives of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory,” Minister Byrne said. “We will continue our close co-operation until this matter is resolved.”

The ministers urged all producers in Queensland to ensure they had the most stringent biosecurity arrangements in place and asked recreational fishers to refrain from using green prawns as bait. White spot disease is a highly contagious disease of prawns and other crustaceans, but presents no risk to humans.

For more information on response activities, visit the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website​.​

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