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 10 April  2018

Initial testing reveal positive results for white spot disease in Moreton Bay

The latest round of surveillance has been completed in the Moreton Bay area for white spot disease, with some initial tests returning positive results for the virus that causes white spot disease.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the positive results were found in crab and prawn samples from the northern Moreton Bay region near the Redcliffe Peninsula.

“This is the same area that positive results were found in 2017 and Biosecurity Queensland is processing the remaining samples collected from the Logan and Brisbane River area and will release the results once the testing has been completed,” Minister Furner said.

“We have received results back from the southern Moreton Bay area and all samples collected were negative for white spot syndrome virus.”

Acting Chief Biosecurity Officer, Malcolm Letts, said Biosecurity Queensland was now waiting on results from the Brisbane and Logan River areas.

“It’s important that we complete testing from all sites before we make any decisions about our white spot disease strategy moving forward,” Mr Letts said.

“These initial results have been discussed with key seafood industry groups and we will continue to work closely with them throughout this process."

Movement restrictions will remain unchanged with uncooked prawns, yabbies and marine worms not to be moved out of the movement restriction area, which runs from Caloundra to the New South Wales Border and west to Ipswich.

Biosecurity Queensland is also conducting surveillance for white spot disease along the east coast of Queensland with results expected in June.

“It’s really important to remember that white spot disease only affects crustaceans and has no impact on human health, so make sure you go out and support your local seafood industry by asking for Queensland seafood next time you go shopping,” Mr Furner said.

For more information visit www.daf.qld.gov.au/wsd or phone the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on 13 25 23. 


White spot disease surveillance FAQs

Do these results mean that white spot disease is here to stay?

At this stage, we are not sure if the virus that causes white spot disease has established in the wild. We need to complete the testing of all samples to have a better understanding of the situation.

Have movement restrictions changed?

No. Movement restrictions remain unchanged across Moreton Bay which means raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms cannot be moved out of the area, unless cooked first.

Can white spot disease be eradicated?

White spot disease is an extremely contagious viral disease that is present in many areas of the world. Once it has been established in a wild crustacean population it has not been known to be eradicated. At this stage, we don’t know if the virus that causes white spot disease has established in wild crustaceans in Moreton Bay. It is important that we complete the testing from all sites before making any decisions on the future of our white spot disease strategy.

What will this mean for buying and selling seafood in Queensland?

The trade of seafood in Queensland will continue in accordance with the requirements of the current movement restrictions for white spot disease carriers. That means raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms cannot be moved out of the movement restriction area, unless cooked first.

What does this mean for the future of Queensland’s fishing industry?

We need to wait for all results to come in to get the whole picture, and then consult with industry members. We need good science-based evidence before we make any decision on the future of the white spot disease strategy.

Why are imported green prawns still allowed into the country?

The Queensland Government doesn't control the importation of produce into the country - this is controlled by the Australian Government. A new import risk assessment will be conducted shortly by the Federal Government. This will look at the costs and impacts of disease incursions. During this process the Queensland Government will be advocating for the implementation of stronger measures to reduce future risks associated with imported seafood that may contain diseases of concern to Australia.

When will the next round of surveillance be carried out?

Biosecurity Queensland is expected the complete the Moreton Bay surveillance in April and the Queensland east coast surveillance from Caloundra to Cairns, by June 2018. The next round of surveillance is scheduled for September 2018. This may change depending on the outcome from the current surveillance round.

What does white spot disease surveillance actually mean?

Surveillance means we are looking for white spot disease or signs of the disease. When conducting surveillance we collect prawn samples from different locations across a specific area and test them in our laboratory to see if they have the virus that causes white spot disease.

What is actually done when you test a prawn sample?

Our technicians at Queensland’s Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory take part of the prawn and break it up in a small tube. The pulverised sample is used to obtain DNA through a process called DNA extraction. The DNA undergoes a diagnostic process (real time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)) that makes billions of copies of the DNA, and using a fluorescence marker, highlights if DNA from the virus that causes white spot disease is present. This test is similar to tests used by forensic scientists when testing for human DNA at a crime scene.

All positive tests are sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, for confirmation where the samples are tested again.

What is proof of freedom surveillance?

Proof of Freedom is a nationally coordinated and structured approach to surveillance through sampling, to determine national freedom from, in this case, white spot disease (WSD). The international standard requires two years of consecutive negative results for WSD, from the samples obtained during active surveillance to demonstrate freedom from disease.

Why do we need to test across the state if white spot disease has only been found in South East Queensland?

Testing for white spot disease has been conducted across the state to check if the disease has been introduced in any other locations and to ensure the disease has not spread from South East Queensland. The results from the most recent round of surveillance along the east coast of Queensland indicate that it has not spread, at this stage, from the initial entry point in South East Queensland.

What are the major risks people should be aware of?

Using imported prawns as bait may introduce serious disease into our natural waterways, which is why it is important to only use Australian wild-caught bait from a quality bait supplier or catch your own.

Not disposing of raw seafood properly could also introduce disease, so putting seafood scraps in the bin and not into waterways is also vital to keeping Queensland disease-free.

Moving raw prawns, yabbies and marine worms out of the restricted area could spread the disease into other waterways in Queensland that is why movement restrictions are in place.

Is white spot harmful if you eat seafood that has the disease?

No, the virus that causes this disease is not harmful to humans, it only affect crustaceans. We encourage everyone to continue buying and eating Queensland’s amazing seafood and supporting these industries.

Reporting 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.

Suspected cases of white spot disease must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland immediately through the online white spot disease reporting form or by calling 13 25 23. Take note of the location and time and if possible, freeze a sample of the suspect animals for later testing.


Further information

Further information on white spot is available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

Subscribe to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries aquatic pest and disease alerts for regular updates on the white spot disease response.



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