White Spot Disease in Queensland prawns

Prawn infected with WSD – photograph courtesy of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

White spot disease (WSD) has been detected on a number of prawn farms, which are located in South East Queensland. The disease is not present elsewhere in Australia.

What is white spot disease?

White spot disease (WSD) is a highly contagious viral infection that affects all crustaceans. The disease can cause many deaths in farmed prawns.

The signs of white spot disease in prawns can include a loose shell with numerous white spots (0.5 – 2.0mm in diameter) on the inside surface of the shell and a pink to red discolouration.

This disease does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.

What is the impact of WSD?

WSD has impacted heavily on prawn farms in the affected area south of Brisbane. There have also been trade and social impacts related to the disease outbreak. In prawn farm operations, WSD can result in 100 per cent mortality within a few days of the onset of visible signs of the disease.

Biosecurity Queensland has undertaken treatment, disposal and decontamination of the affected farm production ponds.

The Queensland Government has conducted extensive surveillance of wild prawns in the affected area to determine whether the disease is present in the wild. At this time there is no evidence that the virus has established in the wild prawn population.

Surveillance and sampling in all prawn farms and waterways in the affected area will continue.

This disease is currently NOT in Victoria.

The Queensland Government placed a ban on the taking of bait prawns from the Logan River very early in the outbreak which has reduced the risk of infected bait prawns entering Victoria to a negligible level.

What you can do

It is crucial that people fishing or crabbing anywhere in Australia's waterways, including Victoria, do not use prawns meant for human consumption as bait.

Recreational fishers should check their bait for signs of WSD and NOT use food grade prawns as bait.

If you suspect WSD you must stop using the bait and call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888. You will be given advice on what to do next.

If you would like more information about white spot disease or national response activities visit outbreak.gov.au.