Cooked prawns.
Cooked prawns.

Six month closure of Yamba waters

THE NSW Department of Primary Industries has closed waters immediately adjacent to three Yamba prawn farms for the next six months.

The closure aims to mitigate the risk of spreading white spot disease to the prawn farms by excluding recreational fishing activity close to the water intake of the prawn farms.

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral disease which affects various crustacean species. Detected in Queensland in late 2016, the disease caused severe impacts on the south-east Queensland farmed prawn industry.

DPI Deputy Director General Fisheries, Geoff Allan, said white spot disease has not been detected in NSW and extensive sampling of NSW prawn farms and wild prawn stocks continues to shows no evidence of the disease in NSW.

"DPI is introducing the closure as an interim measure while prawn farmers develop on-farm risk management strategies for the virus in line with those being developed nationally by the Australian Prawn Farmers Association," Dr Allan said.

"An independent report into the effectiveness of biosecurity controls on uncooked prawn imports released by the Australian Government's Inspector-General of Biosecurity, Dr Helen Scott-Orr, in December 2017 identified one measure to reduce the risk of infected prawns entering prawn farms is to prevent recreational fishing in close proximity to farms.

"White spot disease does not pose a threat to human health or food safety. It is crucial that people fishing or crabbing in our waterways do not use prawns intended for human consumption as bait or berley, as this could spread the virus to new areas.

"A white spot disease outbreak in NSW prawn farms could result in a $6 million economic loss to the state of NSW."

The closure is declared under Section 8 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 and will be in force until 22 June 2018.

Dr Allan said recreational fishers should refer to specific details of affected areas on the DPI website.

"The closure applies to waters on either side of the three prawn farms property boundaries, and approximately 100 metres offshore," he said.

The temporary closure is necessary to minimise the threat to NSW prawn farms from white spot disease leading up to the festive season, when increased fishing activity is expected near prawn farm inlets and outlets.

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