Biosecurity alert: White spot in prawns

Page last updated: Tuesday, 9 April 2019 - 5:24pm

White spot is a highly contagious viral infection that affects all crustacean. Import requirements are now in place to prevent the disease entering WA. Report signs of white spot immediately to the FishWatch 24 hour hotline on 1800 815 507.

White Spot disease was detected on prawn farms in Queensland in 2016.  Because this disease is currently NOT in WA, restrictions apply to imports of live or uncooked crustaceans or parts of crustaceans of the order Decapoda or polychaete worms from Queensland. 

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.
  • Importers should refer to the WA import restrictions zones map

Key features

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

Impacts

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

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

White spot 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 white spot.

If you think you have found or seen white spot:

  • 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:

Import requirements

The below Import requirements for crustaceans of the order Decapoda and polychaete worms of the class Polychaeta  are published in the Quarantine WA Import Requirements manual.

Live or uncooked crustaceans of the order Decapoda, including but not limited to lobster, crayfish, prawns, shrimp, crabs, Moreton Bay Bugs and yabbies.

The crustaceans or parts of crustaceans

  • have been taken from the waters of the Northern Territory, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania or South Australia; and
  • the containers holding the crustaceans or parts of crustaceans are labelled with the producer, the trade or common name of the crustaceans, and the place where the crustaceans were taken;

or

If produced by aquaculture in QLD or NSW, the crustaceans or parts of crustaceans

  • have been processed, packaged and labelled for human consumption; and
  • have been tested and certified as free from White Spot Syndrome Virus in accordance with the sampling and testing regime provided by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Sustainability and Biosecurity;

or

If taken from the waters of QLD, the crustaceans or parts of crustaceans are accompanied by a statutory declaration, made by a representative of a business approved by the Deputy Director General of the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Sustainability and Biosecurity, for the purposes of this requirement, stating that the crustaceans or parts of crustaceans have been consigned by that business and:

  • are wild caught; and
  • are taken from waters North of Latitude 24o29.904’S (WGS84), approximately 45km North of Bundaberg, in Queensland; and
  • are processed for the purposes of human consumption; and
  • have been processed at a facility that has adequate biosecurity measures in place to segregate the processing of the crustaceans to be imported to WA from crustaceans, or equipment, or containers, or water used in the processing of crustaceans taken or produced from an area South of 24o29.904’S (WGS84), in Queensland;

or

The crustaceans or parts of crustaceans have been

  • treated by gamma irradiation with a dose not less than 50Kgy; and
  • the containers are labelled with a batch number or consignment number to allow traceability of the product to an irradiation treatment certificate; and
  • the consignment is accompanied by that certificate of irradiation.

Polychaete worms - worms of the class Polychaeta

The polychaete worms

  • have not been taken from an area South of 24o29.904’S (WGS84), approximately 45km North of Bundaberg in Queensland, and North of the NSW/QLD border; and
  • the containers holding the polychaete worms are labelled with the producer, the trade or common name of the polychaete worms, and the place where the polychaete worms were taken.