White spot disease overview

White spot disease update

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is implementing an expanded movement control zone that encompasses Moreton Bay due to new positive detections of the virus that causes white spot disease in northern Moreton Bay. The recent detections were found near the Redcliffe Peninsula and Deception Bay.

The new movement control order (PDF, 2.8MB) replaces the existing restrictions in place on the Logan River and extends from Caloundra to the NSW border following the eastern coasts of Bribie, Moreton and Stradbroke Islands. View the map of the movement control area (PDF, 3.1MB) and our frequently asked questions (PDF, 193.4KB) for further details.

These biosecurity measures are supported by recommendations by the expert advisory panel, who have handed down their independent report into future management options of the disease (PDF, 566.1KB).

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 infected prawn
    White spot disease infected prawn
  • Inspection and testing of a prawn infected with white spot disease
    Inspection and testing of a prawn infected with white spot disease
Name White spot disease
Scientific name White spot syndrome virus is the causative agent causing white spot disease. White spot syndrome virus belongs to the genus Whispovirus.
Cause The disease is caused by white spot syndrome virus.

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral disease of decapod crustaceans.

Where the disease occurs

White spot disease is widespread throughout prawn farming regions in Asia and has become established in prawns farmed in the Americas where it has caused severe losses on prawn farms.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world with a prawn farming industry that has previously remained free of white spot disease.

Detection in Logan River region

The disease has been confirmed in seven prawn farms located on the Logan River. This is the first confirmed case of white spot disease in an aquaculture setting.

The virus that causes white spot disease has been found in a number of wild caught prawns and crabs taken from the Logan River region and Moreton Bay.

Affected marine life

Decapod crustaceans including, but not limited to, prawns, lobsters and crabs are susceptible to the infection.

Effect on other species

Marine worms are considered to be carriers of the disease.

Fin fish are not affected by the disease and are not a carrier of the disease.

The white spot disease detected in south east Queensland is not the same disease that can infect ornamental/aquarium fish. White spot in aquarium fish is a parasitic skin infection and not related to white spot disease.


Prawns with white spot disease 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.

Identifying white spot disease

Signs to look for include:

  • A loose shell
  • Numerous white spots
  • Pink to red discolouration
  • Unusual mortality
  • Prawns coming to the edge or water surface
  • Prawns demonstrating unusual swimming patterns

While other crustaceans such as crabs can be carriers of WSD, they may not display any visible signs and must not be moved from the movement control area.

Refer to the images above.

Spread of the diseases

The disease is primarily spread through the movement of infected animals or contaminated water. Birds that feed on and move infected animals can spread the disease

Control of the disease
  • Movement restrictions – restriction on the movement of crustaceans are imposed on commercial and recreational fishers, and others using affected waterways
  • Destruction, disposal and decontamination procedures for infected prawnpremises
  • Bird mitigation for infected prawn premises - birds pose a high risk for disease spread as they can carry infected prawns into uninfected aquaculture ponds and natural waterways.
  • Crab control for infected prawn premises.
Impacts Economic

White spot disease has the potential to cause significant financial impact to the farmed prawn industry.

The farmed prawn industry in Queensland is worth approximately $87 million annually. The gross value of prawn production in Australia in 2015-16 was worth $413 million, and in 2015, employed 5000 people.
Risks to human health Prawns infected with white spot disease do not pose a risk to food safety or human health.

More white spot disease information 

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Last updated 31 March 2017

Fishers must not remove any prawns, crabs, marine yabbies or marine worms from the area. Fishing is allowed and species other than prawns, crabs, marine yabbies and marine worms 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.