Local fishers say they support a ban on prawn imports.
Local fishers say they support a ban on prawn imports. Marc Stapelberg

Fishers: Why prawn imports need a permanent ban

IMPORTS of green prawns have been suspended after the country's first outbreak of white spot disease was found in Queensland farms.

While the disease has not been found in Bundaberg's waters, the region's commercial fishers said they were excited the ban was finally in place.

"I've been campaigning for years to have the green prawn import banned because of the white spot disease," local commercial fishing veteran Anne Whalley said.

"But it's always been the cheaper option to have prawns of that size and people have been using them as bait - which only introduces them into the river system.

"They should not be allowed into our country and the biosecurity checks should be done randomly and regularly - the suppliers send a sample to be analysed and they aren't going to send the ones that are filled with disease, there are too many dishonest people."

Mrs Whalley said while the ban was good news for the industry, it needed to be made permanent.

White spot is a contagious viral disease, caused by the white spot syndrome virus, found in prawns.

While the disease causes high mortality rates in infected populations, it's exclusive to prawns - the virus is not damaging to human health, even upon consumption.

Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) executive officer Helen Jenkins said the ban was fantastic news, but it could have happened before the $25 million industry was affected.

"Five farms have been affected in the Logan area and it's affected 115 families," Ms Jenkins said.

"All of the farms are nervous because it's an exotic disease, people who have farmed for more than 30 years have never had to deal with this before.

"We have no problem importing cooked prawns, because it's the green ones which carry the disease."

While Ms Jenkins couldn't comment on the market, she did say within the last two years, consumers had been looking for Australian produce and said she hoped support would continue to grow.

If the ban became permanent, Ms Jenkins said Australia would be able to supply the demand.

"I don't know why we started importing them in the first place," she said.

The APFA will meet this week to discuss the industry's bio-security.

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