Fears imported prawns will kill $600m industry


AUSTRALIA'S $600 million-a-year prawn industry could be 'wiped out' if raw imported prawns from Asia are introduced into the local food chain by being used as bait or berley.

That is the dire message from the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA), the Queensland Government and the local fishing industry.

According to the QSIA, recent tests on imported raw prawns have revealed the presence of at least three deadly exotic prawn diseases ? white spot syndrome virus (WSSV), taura syndrome vi- rus (TSV) and yellowhead virus (YHV).

WSSV has already had a deadly impact overseas, all but wiping out some prawn farms across the world.

The first reported prawn farm epidemic was in Taiwan in 1992 and was quickly followed by outbreaks in China, Japan and Korea (1993), Thailand, India and Malaysia (1994), USA (1998), Central and South America, Mexico (1999) and in the Philippines (2000), and in most cases led to a 100 per cent mortality rate.

The virus, referred to as the 'foot in mouth disease of prawns' also has the ability to infect wild prawns, which could be devastat- ing for an industry already on its knees.

Clarence Valley Fisherman's Co-Operative communications manager Russell Creighton said the industry has known about the potential for these diseases to reach our shores for many years.

"There is no doubt it is a serious threat, especially to high density prawn farms, which could be wiped out in an instant.

"If this (WSSV) got into Australia it could wipe out the industry very quickly."

Local fisherman Alan Ford said the whole importation of prawns was a joke.

"The powers that be won't stop it (importation)," he said.

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