Queensland's prawn farmers are breathing a sigh of relief as local waterways continue to show no signs of white spot disease.
The latest round of surveillance tests conducted throughout South East Queensland have returned negative for the disease, which only 2.5 years ago devastated prawn farmers in the Logan River region.
Biosecurity Queensland took prawn and marine worm samples from several locations within Moreton Bay and the Logan and Brisbane Rivers. None returned positive results.
The state's Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner says this is a great outcome for the industry, and if another round of tests next year is negative Australia will once again be declared 'white spot free'.
"This is the second consecutive surveillance round conducted by my department which has returned negative results for the virus that causes white spot disease," says Furner.
"If another round of tests next year is negative, Queensland and Australia would be declared free of white spot disease."
Furner has cautioned that farmers and even recreational fishers must remain vigilant in ensuring white spot is contained and does not spread.
Australian Prawn Farmers Association President Matt West says all his members are hoping the viral nightmare is finally coming to an end.
"Affected businesses have gone through a lot of financial and mental stress with our Logan farms having to shut down for lengthy periods with the sole purpose of eradicating the disease," says West.
"Everyone has done an amazing job, but we've had a wake-up call to remain vigilant, not just for white spot but other diseases coming into the country.
"It's imperative we boost exotic disease testing regimes at our borders to prevent any other major disease outbreaks.
West adds that despite the recent white spot fallout, Queensland's prawn farming industry is currently going through a considerable phase of expansion.
"Established aquaculture companies and major new entrants are spending millions and millions of dollars expanding their farms or constructing some new large-scale operations," he says.
"There's such unlimited demand for our prawns. Seafood suppliers take everything we can produce."
The aquaculture industry in Australia is valued at more than $120 million. The production of prawns makes up most of that figure.
Three of Seven Logan prawn farms restocked their ponds last summer and the biggest operator managed to harvest around 421 tonnes of prawns. Although the haul was still well down when compared to the pre-outbreak period, production is set to double again later this year.
While white spot disease is a highly contagious and viral infection that is often fatal to crustaceans, prawns and crabs, it is not considered harmful to human health when infected seafood is consumed.Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
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