White spot disease overview

White spot disease update

Movement restrictions are in place for high-risk animals such as prawns, yabbies and marine worms. This means they cannot be moved out of the white spot disease restricted area that extends from Caloundra to the New South Wales border and west to Ipswich, unless cooked first.

If you are using prawns as bait make sure they are Australian wild-caught from a quality bait supplier or catch your own. Using imported raw prawns as bait may introduce serious diseases into our waterways.

Check out these great tips on how to catch your own bait or download the white spot disease information guide (PDF, 2.3MB) for further details on white spot disease and movement restrictions.

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 was 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 was confirmed in seven prawn farms located on the Logan River in 2016. This was 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 Redcliffe Peninsula in 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 white spot disease, 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