Qld fishers launch class action at federal government over White Spot outbreak

Qld fishers launch class action at federal government over White Spot outbreak

More than 100 commercial fishers in Queensland are preparing for a lawsuit against the federal government over the White Spot outbreak.

The suit, which will be prepared by Chris Thompson from Law Essentials, a Harvey Bay based law firm, is in relation to the White Spot disease that has infected Queensland prawns and cost the industry millions.Trawlers, crabbers and worm diggers operating out of Moreton Bay say the federal government abandoned them after the deadly disease was found in wild prawn stocks last year and are now planning to sue for damages.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association chief executive Eric Perez says the move is a last resort after lobbying efforts for compensation failed.

Queensland fisherman say they have been forced to sit on their hands and wait in hope that prawns infected with White Spot will die off and stop the spread of the deadly disease.

Michael Wood has trawled for prawns off the Queensland coast for decades but says his industry has been hit hard in the wake of an outbreak in 2016.

"We're really hoping that the actual prawns that are infected die out," says Wood.

"There's no other way we can manage it."

White Spot was found in the Logan River south of Brisbane and at three of eight land-based prawn farms in 2016.

It was later detected in wild prawn stocks in Moreton Bay.

The disease is harmless to humans but causes high mortality rates in prawns.

Wood says the federal government, responsible for stopping the import of infected prawns, has abandoned his industry and left fishermen to pick up the pieces.

"We just want everyone to know how hard we're doing it," says Wood.

The disease has cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars and continues to impact fishermen, while state government imposed restocking restrictions placed on farmers hit by the outbreak were lifted in May.

Meanwhile, a Gold Coast bait supplier has been fined $10,000 for moving infected raw prawns out of a control zone and selling them to a bait shop in the Warwick area where they were quickly removed by authorities.

In November 2017, three shipments of raw prawns imported from overseas tested positive for white spot disease following the lifting of the import ban.

The federal government banned raw prawn imports in January but lifted the ban in July in a move that devastated local prawn farmers who warned the imports could be dangerous.

The three overseas shipments were detected the white spot by biosecurity tests despite an enhanced regime that requires exporting countries to certify their shipments are free of the disease.

The positive tests are certain to alarm the prawn industry which lobbied to prevent the lifting of the import ban.

The Queensland Seafood Industry Association told a Senate Committee farmers had "absolutely no confidence in the new testing programs".

The Australian Prawn Farmers Association also railed against lifting the ban. White spot poses no risk to human health but is deadly to prawns.

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