White spot disease could wipe out a third of Australia’s farming sector, exec fears

Published on
January 6, 2017

If prawn hatcheries in Australia are unable to be revived following an outbreak of white spot disease, as much as a third of the industry could be wiped out, an executive with the Australian Prawn Farmers Association said.

A fifth property along the Logan River has detected the disease among its stock, and authorities remain unsure as to how contamination is spreading, according to a report in the Courier Mail. The latest contaminated site is four kilometers downriver from the farms that had previously reported outbreaks, which has prompted a number of farmers to fret that white spot disease is wild and rampant in the waterway. Only two farms located on the Logan River remain disease-free, noted the newspaper report.

Murray Zipf, who owns Rocky Point Prawn Farm, which operates out of 12 ponds near the mouth of the Logan River, fears for his business.

“I’m going to church on Sunday and that’s about all I can do,” Zipf told the Courier Mail. “It’s the end of prawn farming here, we’ll have to bring in prawns from overseas now.”

Helen Jenkins, the executive officer for the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, has projected that as much as a third of Australia’s industry could be wiped out as a result of white spot disease, which affects prawn stocks, but not humans. The damage has already directly affected 115 families, Jenkins said, and this doesn’t include flow-on industries.

Thus far, white spot disease has cost the Australian prawn farming industry AUD 25 million (USD 18.2 million, EUR 17.3 million) since it was first found in November 2016. Emergency restrictions on movement in the river as well as fishing activities is being enacted and enforced by Biosecurity Queensland while it attempts to trace the origins of the outbreak and pinpoint how it is spreading. Last week, ponds infected with white spot disease were treated with chlorine, chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson tol;d the newspaper; heightened surveillance measures have also been put in place.

This is the first time Australia has been afflicted with white spot disease, which has played a role in depleting the farmed prawn industries in Asia and the Americas.

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