Prawn threat

By Country News

The Queensland Government has called on the Commonwealth to do more to protect the state’s prawn farmers from a deadly disease that could wipe out local stocks.

Prawns infected with white spot disease are still making it on to supermarket shelves, despite the Turnbull Government introducing tougher rules after an outbreak in 2016 that is estimated to have cost farmers and associated industries almost $400million.

University of the Sunshine Coast’s Professor Wayne Knibb told ABC’s Four Corners on Monday that prawns bought from south-east Queensland retailers were infected.

‘‘If we can find in a very limited sample 30 per cent of samples that were in the history connected or in contact with the virus, then clearly we’re playing with fire here,’’ Prof Knibb said.

Australian Prawn Farmers Association executive officer Kim Hooper said it commissioned tests in May which found raw prawns purchased from Gold Coast retailers were infected.

‘‘Our farmers are angry and feel not enough has been done to stop white spot entering our country and waterways, putting their livelihoods and the livelihoods of future generations at significant risk,’’ Ms Hooper said.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s department said protocols for imported raw prawns were strict, but they were only meant to reduce the biosecurity risk to a low level, not zero.

‘‘There is insufficient evidence to support an argument that these enhanced import conditions for prawns are not working,’’ a Department of Agriculture spokesman said.

White spot was detected in the Logan River south of Brisbane and at three of eight land-based prawn farms in 2016, crippling Queensland’s multi-million-dollar prawn industry.

The disease was later found in wild prawn stocks in Moreton Bay.