ABOUT 1500 tonnes of poisonous prawns are rotting in ponds in the northern Gold Coast and the State Government has no idea what to do about it.
The tiger prawns have been decaying in 112 ponds in Alberton and Woongoolba over the past month after Biosecurity ordered they be killed to help get on top of the white spot disease crisis that has ravaged the industry.
Affected prawns with white spot disease.
Angry farmers say their hands are tied as they risk polluting major waterways and cruelling other industries if they release the dead prawns, killed by 2.8 million litres of chlorine.
The five properties on the northern Gold Coast have not received compensation or support from the state and federal governments since the outbreak of the white spot disease in late November.
More than $25 million of high-quality prawns have been destroyed and farmers continue to pay large operational costs at farms that will be idle for months. “They haven’t worked out how they’re going to get the water out of the ponds,” long-time prawn farmer Elwyn Truloff said.
“They created this mess, let them fix it. We may never be able to grow prawns here again.”
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said it was still developing a disposal and decontamination plan for all treated ponds on the affected farms.
“The time frame for this work is still some time away and the work itself will take a number of months, including a drying out period for the ponds,” the spokesman said.
Farmers may be able to go back into production some time this year if there were no further significant detections of the disease, he added.
Prawn farmer Elwyn Truloff, 75, believes an outbreak of white spot disease at his Woongoolba Farm will force its closure.
Along with four other family-run farms in the Gold Coast’s north, Mr Truloff sells millions of dollars of premium tiger prawns to supermarket chains throughout Australia.
“We’ve lost the bloody lot,” he said. “The industry has been ruined over this. They can’t guarantee there’s no white spot in the river.”
He said farming in the area would never be the same because of the risk of pumping potentially contaminated water from the Logan or Albert rivers into their ponds.
Quarantine signs at Rocky Point where Department of Fisheries have banned fishing.
In addition to the prawns, some farmers were also worried small live crabs may have escaped the ponds when they were disinfected last month and carried the disease into rivers.
Mr Truloff said Biosecurity Queensland had no idea about how to address the problem. He also criticised successive federal governments for allowing infected green prawns into the country.
The highly contagious white spot disease is lethal to prawns and crabs and has devastated production overseas. The disease, which emerged in Asia in the 1990s, is not harmful to humans.
Mr Truloff is focusing on his prawn farm in Cardwell in North Queensland where he is working to establish a prawn hatchery.
Since the first positive tests of white spot he said it was too risky to transport prawn hatchings north.
Paradise Prawn farm manager, Luke Rossman, looks over drained ponds where a million dollars worth of prawns were lost to white spot. Picture Glenn Hampson
Father and son farmers Geoff and Luke Rossmann said they faced an equally uncertain future. Geoff Rossmann said although farmers and authorities had done everything they could to kill the disease it was still a disaster.
“It is like shutting the gate when your prize horse is already out on the road but it’s been hit by a semi-trailer,” Mr Rossmann said.
The Biosecurity spokesman this week said there was no evidence the virus was well established in the Logan River, but urged aquaculture operators, commercial and recreational fishers to report prawns that have damaged flesh or white spots.
“Early detection provides a better chance of being able to contain and eradicate this disease,” he said.