WHITE sport disease has cost Queensland’s prawn industry up to $100 million, a damning report into biosecurity controls that allowed the disease to infect Australian prawns for the first time has found.
Australia’s Inspector-General of Biosecurity Dr Helen Scott-Orr reviewed the effectiveness of biosecurity controls implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on uncooked prawn imports after white spot disease was detected in south-east Queensland prawn farms last December.
The outbreak lead to the suspension of uncooked prawn imports to Australia for the first six months of 2017.
The report found the outbreak was likely caused by the use of imported uncooked prawns as bait by fishers in the Logan River.
White spot disease, which is caused by white spot syndrome virus, was first discovered in farmed prawns in China in 1992 and can kill an entire pond of prawns within a week of symptoms appearing.
This was the first time it had been found in Australia.
Dr Scott-Orr found there had been a major failure of Australia’s biosecurity system, due to longstanding import conditions for uncooked prawns that were difficult to implement, serious non-compliance by some major importers, weak border inspection procedures, and variations in laboratory test result interpretation.
She recommended a suite of changes be implemented including reviewing the science behind import conditions, strengthening processes for border inspection, ensuring adequate government funding for biosecurity, staff training, increasing penalties for biosecurity breaches, and greater collaboration with other government agencies.
Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Keith Harris said impacted prawn farmers had been deserted and deserved compensation.
“The feeling of those chaps impacted down there, they feel like they’ve been deserted, they’ve not been offered any industry or business assistance by the State or Federal Government,” Mr Harris said.
“They are still unable to send raw prawn outside of the existing closure zone
”I would strongly think they should be entitled to compensation, it is through no fault of own and their businesses have been severely impacted.”
Mr Harris said shipments of imported prawns had tested positive to white spot in recent weeks and called for a total ban of imported raw prawn meat.
“As far as QSIA goes, we believe any prawn that comes in here should be cooked prawn and that negates the problem at our front door,” Mr Harris said.
“Any prawn that is currently on the shelves, biosecurity should be testing and taking samples so it is no spread across the state or the country for that matter.”
“It hasn’t had any effect, they’re still finding shipments proving positive to white spot virus, government is letting the whole country down with lack of biosecurity on these issues.”