GOLD Coast prawn fishermen will now have access to the lucrative US$3.7 billion American crustacean market following export accreditation approved today by State Government.

The accreditation means Queensland's trawl fishers now have access to the largest export market in the world with the US importing more than 540 000 tonnes of prawns each year.

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin, says Queensland prawns will now be on American menus.

"Queensland prawn trawlers will now be able to nab a slice of the US accredited import market worth over a year worldwide,” he says.

"Fisheries Queensland has been working directly with the trawl industry as well as representatives from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to progress the export accreditation application.”

The trawl industry hasn't been able to export Queensland prawns to the US because requirements for the market had not been met.

While it’s good news for primary producers, there is some concern that local consumers could be slugged a premium for increased prawn prices.

Manager of Marine Queensland Charles Dickson, cites a similar occurrence with Tasmanian and West Australian lobsters when they started exporting to Asia around 30 years ago.

“Prices went through the roof and we got stuck with only the baby lobsters which very quickly reached the price of the adult lobsters we used to be able to buy. Same thing happened with abalone – nobody in Australia can afford it anymore,” says Dickson.

“One of the greatest things about living here on the Gold Coast has been the ability to go down to the trawlers at The Spit and buy fresh, high quality prawns at reasonable prices. I’ll lay you a dollar to a dime that we’ll soon be stuck eating the crap prawns that are currently being imported from Vietnam and China and sold through Coles and Woolies.

“I’ve seen the putrid waterways in Asia where these prawns are raised and there’s no way in the world that I would even consider eating them. A few years back I saw a major commercial prawn farm a short distance from Shanghai. It was about two kilometres downstream from a sewerage farm discharging virtually raw sewerage into the river.”

However Minister Mulherin says the accreditation also recognises that Queensland's fisheries are being managed sustainably.

"If our current management arrangements were not in place the accreditation would not have been successful," he says.

"The enhanced level of sustainability in Queensland's trawl fishery is largely due the introduction of new turtle excluder devices (TEDs) specifications and the subsequent Queensland Government rebate scheme.

"The rebate scheme was launched last year to assist industry in meeting world's best practice design and sustainability requirements. So far rebates have been paid for approximately 450 TEDs with the expectation that further rebates will be paid for an additional 400 pending the completion of orders and receipt of applications.

"Since the introduction of TEDs research has shown an increase in the nesting population of loggerhead turtles on the Queensland east coast."

For years our own Croc Dundee Paul Hogan has encouraged Americans to 'throw another prawn on the barbie' - now it could be a Queensland variety.

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