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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Wednesday 14 December 2016

Import restrictions on Queensland prawns and worms to prevent serious disease

​The Department of Fisheries is urging Western Australians to adhere to new import requirements, designed to prevent the establishment of a serious prawn disease in this State.

White spot disease (WSD) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects crustaceans and it has been detected on three prawn farms on the Logan River, in South East Queensland near Brisbane.

This disease causes high rates of prawn mortality in affected stock, but does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.

Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is managing the outbreak and has put in place enhanced biosecurity measures and movement restrictions to help contain and eradicate the virus. Until this incident, Australia has been one of the few countries in the world with a prawn farming industry that has remained free of white spot disease.

In response, the Department of Fisheries is working with other agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), to coordinate actions to prevent WSD establishing in WA.

Compliance and Regional Support Manager John Looby said, if established, WSD could pose a serious threat to WA’s freshwater and marine crustaceans; in both farmed and wild fisheries, including crabs, lobster and marron.

“We are moving quickly to reduce the risk of the virus spreading here, by restricting the import of all live or uncooked prawns, or parts of prawns and polychaete worms, from Queensland,” he said.

“Unless tested and certified free of WSD, none of these products from the wild, farmed or processed in Queensland can be imported into Western Australia for human consumption or bait.

“Community support is vital in stopping the spread of this virus and recreational fishers can help by checking their bait for any signs of WSD and also by not using food grade prawns as bait.”

“Fishers should be aware that prawns with the disease may have a loose shell with numerous white spots (0.5-2.0mm in diameter) on the shell’s inside surface and a pinky-red discolouration.”

Any prawns suspected to have WSD should be retained and immediately reported to the department’s FishWatch 24 hour hotline on 1800 815 507. For details on WA’s prawn import restrictions, see details of the import requirements on the DAFWA website. More info about the response to the incident in Queensland can be found on the Outbreak website at

For more about WSD, visit the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website at

Last modified: 14/12/2016 5:19 PM

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