THE devastating outbreak of white spot disease in the Logan River has spread to a sixth farm and also been detected in a prawn in the river.
The latest detection, which was confirmed this morning after samples were tested at a special laboratory in Victoria, have called in to question the ability of Biosecurity Queensland to contain and eradicate the disease, which has already led to the destruction of prawns worth $25 million.
Chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson said in a statement that the agency had conducted more than 50,000 tests since the outbreak began in November last year as authorities attempted to contain the spread of white spot and determine if it had established in the river.
“This week a single prawn taken from the Logan River has tested positive for the virus that causes white spot disease,” he said.
“This is only the second time the virus has been found in prawns in the river adjacent to the aquaculture farms at Alberton following a positive detection in early December.
“Given there have only been such a small number of positive detections, we are still working to understand if the virus is established in local waterways.”
The Logan River makes up about a third of Australia’s $90 million prawn farming industry. There are seven active farms on the river, with only one remaining disease free. The first five farms to detect the disease have destroyed all their stock and are in the process of decontaminating and drying out their ponds.
The most recent farm to detect the disease had nearly completed harvesting of its prawns. It is the first positive detection in more than a month.
OVERNIGHT: RESILIENT Logan River prawn farmers are determined to continue operating and overcome an outbreak of white spot disease that has destroyed $25 million of stock since late last year.
The farmers met yesterday with government officials, industry representatives and legal, financial and scientific experts in Yatala, south of Brisbane, to sketch out a road map to return the farms to operation by the end of this year.
However they were also warily watching secondary testing of samples from a disease-free farm that returned suspicious results last weekend. If white spot is confirmed on that property it will mean that only one of the seven farms operating on the river has avoided the disease, which is harmless to humans but has decimated the prawn farming industries in Asia and the Americas.
Any detection of white spot in next year’s crop, due to be restocked in ponds in October and harvested in about April 2018, would be a crippling blow.
Farmers say raw prawn import ban overdue
The disease was first detected at Jeff Rossmann’s farm in November last year. He said there were still many questions about the financial viability of continuing and the ongoing spread of the disease, despite Biosecurity Queensland spending more than $3 million trying to contain the outbreak.
“There are so many financial questions and the risks of going large scale and losing it all again is such a big risk,” he said.
He was worried that despite a massive containment program they had been unable to contain the disease to his property “let alone those further along the river”.
His son Luke said farmers had to finalise decisions about their brood stock by July, which was their deadline to decide if they would risk a new crop in 2017. The Logan River accounts for about one third of Australia’s $90 million farmed prawn industry.