Biosecurity alert: White spot disease in prawns

White spot disease (WSD) has been detected in Queensland. This disease is currently NOT in WA.

WSD is a highly contagious viral infection that affects all crustaceans.

Import requirements are now in place to prevent the disease entering WA. Imports of live or uncooked crustaceans or parts of crustaceans of the order Decapoda or polychaete worms from Queensland could pose a real risk of moving the virus to WA. 

Recreational fishers should check bait for signs of WSD and NOT use food grade prawns as bait.

Report signs of WSD immediately to the FishWatch 24 hour hotline on 1800 815 507.

The import of any prawns, parts of prawns or polychaete worms must be compliant with import requirements under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007.

  • It is crucial that people fishing or crabbing in any of WA’s waterways, do not to use ANY uncooked prawns meant for human consumption as bait. They can also help by not disposing of prawn waste (heads and shells) in or near waterways.
  • These actions have the potential to spread the virus.
  • For more information refer to White spot disease frequently asked questions.

Key features

Prawns with WSD may have a loose shell with numerous white spots (0.5-2.0 mm in diameter) on the inside surface of the shell and a pink to red discolouration.


A widespread outbreak of WSD would have a significant impact on the Australian aquaculture industry as well as trade implications and environmental and social impacts.

In prawn farm operations WSD can result in 100% mortality within a few days of the onset of visible signs of the disease.

WSD could pose a serious threat to WA’s freshwater and marine crustaceans in both farmed and wild fisheries including crabs, lobster and marron.

This disease does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.

What you can do

Recreational fishers are encouraged to check their bait for signs of WSD.

If you think you have found or seen WSD:

  • Photograph it – from different angles and the bag the prawns were purchased in.
  • Record it – make a note of when and where you purchased the prawns including the producer’s name, the trade or common name of the prawns and where the prawns came from.
  • Collect it – keep the whole bag of prawns and refrigerate or freeze it and do not use it as bait.
  • Report it – contact the FishWatch 24 hour hotline on 1800 815 507.

Further information

For more information about the response to the incident in Queensland:

Page last updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2017 - 7:15am