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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Tuesday 24 July 2018

Protecting WA fisheries remains the focus as White Spot import restrictions amended

​The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has amended its White Spot (WS) import restrictions for Western Australia, following further positive detections of WS in Queensland's Moreton Bay from recent testing.

The department is continuing to take a precautionary approach to protecting this State from this potentially devastating virus.

WS is a highly contagious virus that affects farmed and wild crustaceans including prawns, crabs and lobsters. The virus does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.

In December 2016, WS caused high rates of stock mortality on seven prawn farms in South East Queensland. The farms have since been destocked and decontaminated and now lay fallow to assist with eradication of the virus.

WS has not been detected in WA’s wild or farmed prawns.

The changes increase the size of the restricted area by moving the Northern border of the Queensland zone further away from the location of the positive detections in Moreton Bay, up to latitude 24o29.904S WGS 84, approximately 45km North of Bundaberg

A map of the new restriction area is available online.

The import changes are designed to protect Western Australia from potential disease carriers from interstate, whilst enabling low risk products to enter.

The impacts of the extension of the Northern Boundary are expected to be limited, with only a small number of Queensland exporters potentially impacted.

Wild crustaceans from the rest of Queensland can be imported by WA-approved businesses able to meet capture and processing requirements.

Farmed prawns from Queensland and New South Wales can be imported if tests are negative for the WS virus.

The new requirements also still allow for wild crustaceans from the restricted zone to be imported into WA, if they’ve been treated with gamma irradiation. The gamma irradiation kills the WS virus and this is an option to assist the bait prawn industry.

Cooking destroys the virus, so all cooked products continue to be able to be imported into WA.

Due to the serious impact of WS and its ability to spread easily, people fishing or crabbing in WA have a critical role in preventing the spread of this virus by doing the following:

  • All seafood for human consumption, especially imported raw prawns, should not be used as bait, as they may carry and introduce viruses to our waterways and have impacts on both farmed and wild prawns and other crustaceans.
  • Check your bait to make sure the prawns you use are Australian wild-caught from a quality, trusted bait supplier, or catch your own in your local area.
  • Don’t dispose of crustacean waste including heads and shells in, or near, waterways.
  • Uncooked prawns and other seafood purchased from the supermarket or fishmonger are meant for human consumption only and must not be used as bait.

Prawns with White Spot may have a loose shell with numerous white spots on the inside surface of the shell and a pink to red discolouration.

Fishers should also check their bait prawns or other crustaceans for signs of WS and any thought to have the disease should be retained and immediately reported to the FishWatch hotline on 1800 815 507, which operates 24-hours a day.

Biosecurity Compliance Manager Brad Tilley said the changed import requirements remained a precautionary measure, an approach that has served WA well during this outbreak.

“These updated requirements will be subject to review as new information becomes available,” Mr Tilley said.

“The new requirements follow a precautionary approach and will allow a larger buffer zone between the area of positive WS detections and seafood supplies into Western Australia.

“WA continues to support the WS management work being done in Queensland and locally to reduce the risk of WS entering our State.
“Importers are encouraged to check the requirements on the department’s website.” 

More information about WS can be found at:

Photo credit (for above images):
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Last modified: 24/07/2018 1:46 PM

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