White spot virus killing wild Australian prawns and crabs

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White spot disease. Image: DigsFish Services

THE exotic white spot virus that devastated South-East Queensland prawn farms is now killing wild prawns and small crabs in the Logan River and has become widespread in Moreton Bay.

The federal government is reviewing its import requirements for prawns, and a leading aquatic disease expert warns that a dangerous double standard favouring importers over Australian fishers and aquaculture farmers is leaving the country wide open to the introduction of more dangerous viruses.

In a survey finalised for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) late last year, Dr Ben Diggles discovered dead banana prawns and small crabs in waterways surrounding the Logan River — and live virus in small crustacean species in the marine food chain in Deception Bay, well away from the original incursion.

"We looked at a whole range of crustaceans that aren't commercially significant because they're too small," Dr Diggles said.

"We found it was throughout many of those other species so it's within the food chain and unfortunately it looks like it's here to stay," he said.

Humans can't be harmed by the highly infectious white spot virus which affects prawns, yabbies and crabs.

The bad news that it continues to spread in East Coast waters comes as pressure mounts to prevent emerging aquaculture diseases entering Australia, from countries where biosecurity is not always enforced on prawn farms.

Dr Diggles, prawn farmers, bait and wild catch fishers and the seafood industry association have urged the government to force importers to cook prawns to kill white spot and other emerging aquatic diseases that aren't even being tested for in Australia.

"Having one rule for one group at the international border and much stricter rules for Australian businesses locally is not a level playing field, it fails the pub test," Dr Diggles said.

Source: ABC News

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