White spot disease information for prawn farmers

White spot disease

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans. 

The disease has been confirmed in seven prawn farms. The seven infected premises are located on the Logan River. This latest detection confirms that all prawn farms in the region with stock are now infected with the white spot disease virus. 

Biosecurity Queensland is treating affected ponds with chlorine and is preparing for decontamination and disposal work. This is expected to take a number of months. 

Following the positive test results from wild caught prawns near the mouth of the Logan River in early February no further confirmed positive test results have been received, but more samples are in the process of being tested. Surveillance and sampling in all prawn farms and waterways in the region will continue. 

A Movement control order (PDF, 1.6MB), a Prevention and Control Program (PDF, 1.6MB) and a Surveillance Program (PDF, 1001.5KB) are in place to help manage the disease.

White spot disease does not pose a risk to food safety or people's health.

The information below provides updates on the current outbreak in Queensland, and advice on how to prevent a disease incursion on your farm.

Biosecurity programs

A Prevention and Control Program and a Surveillance Program for white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) commenced on 21 January 2017.

The Prevention and Control Program (PDF, 1.6MB) focuses on containing the spread of WSSV and ultimately its eradication through targeted destruction and decontamination of WSSV carriers.

The Surveillance Program (PDF, 1001.5KB) will aid in confirming the presence or absence of WSSV by testing wild and farmed crustaceans across the state, including crustaceans and marine worms used for bait. 

White spot disease email updates

Subscribe to email updates and view previous updates for the latest information on the white spot disease emergency response. 

On-farm biosecurity

Prawn farmers need to ensure appropriate biosecurity measures are in place on their farm which includes sourcing disease free stock and animal feed.

Make sure livestock, water, visitors and staff, and equipment that are coming onto, and leaving the farm are clean.  Equipment and footwear should be disinfected in addition to being cleaned.

Visit the Farm Biosecurity Program for biosecurity tips and advice

Disease management

All aquaculture farms should have a disease management plan including standard operating procedures that can be implemented in the event of a disease outbreak.

Following notification to Biosecurity Queensland of your suspicion of disease, your disease management plan should be immediately implemented to limit the spread of the disease within your premises and to protect healthy animals.

As well as advising Biosecurity Queensland of a disease, you should work to immediately contain the disease by:

  • isolating any animals showing signs of disease in separate ponds and tanks;
  • stopping water flow from these ponds into the surrounding environment and between ponds;
  • applying movement controls on all equipment, including vehicles and machinery;

Following immediate containment, Biosecurity Queensland will take further measures to eradicate the disease from the premises.  This will include additional containment and management measures to limit spread and will include:

  • strict movement controls on prawns, vehicles, machinery and humans;
  • bird mitigation measures;
  • crab control;
  • tracing and surveillance;
  • destruction of all affected ponds; and
  • disposal and decontamination.

Emergency harvest may be considered as part of the destruction strategy to reduce prawn biomass and aid in disposal and decontamination activities.

How to report white spot disease

It is critical that all aquaculture operators, commercial and recreational fishers and other waterway users report unusual signs in prawns (including bait) and other crustaceans.

Early detection provides a better chance of being able to contain and eradicate this serious disease.

If you see crustaceans that you suspect have the disease it is important to take note of the location and time and report this information immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or through our online white spot disease reporting form. Alternatively phone the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Compensation for affected farmers, commercial fishers and bait retailers

The Queensland Government has clearly determined compensation provisions for responses under Chapters 10 and 11 of the Biosecurity Act 2014. Under the Act, there are two forms of compensation - scheme compensation and statutory compensation.

Scheme compensation for losses incurred during a response can be paid under eradication response agreements between the States, the Commonwealth and particular industry sectors. These Agreements are the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) or the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA).

The deeds outline that where a Queensland government and industry assistance or compensation scheme has been established, eligibility for, and payment of, any compensation will be determined by and limited to the arrangements (formula and conditions) for prescribed in the agreement.

Unfortunately, the deeds above do not cover the aquaculture industry and whilst the industry had begun development of their own deed, it is not finalised yet.

Statutory compensation is a limited safety-net for loss or damage that is not covered by a compensation scheme or a policy of insurance.  Statutory compensation is only applicable for loss or damage that was not, or would not have become infected or infested, such as stock or crops that are destroyed to create a buffer zone around an outbreak.

There are specific exclusions for a person receiving statutory compensation, including that the loss or damage to property that would likely have become infested or infected with the biosecurity matter (white spot syndrome virus) which is the subject of the biosecurity action (biosecurity emergency).

There is no evidence that statutory compensation provisions have been triggered for this response.

If you would like further information about how we respond to pest and disease outbreaks, including these nationally agreed plans and agreements, visit the national Outbreak website.

More white spot disease information 

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Last updated 20 February 2017

Fishers must not remove any prawns, crabs, yabbies or worms from the area. Fishing is allowed and species other than prawns, crabs, yabbies and woms, may be removed from the area. It is recommended that all fishing equipment is cleaned thoroughly before leaving the area. 

Bait prawns (including freshly caught) sourced from outside the movement control area can be used, however, once brought into the movement control area, bait prawns cannot be removed. Fishers should not use prawns meant for human consumption as bait.