Unstoppable white spot virus has been found in wild prawns in Moreton Bay off Brisbane and now cannot be stopped, the Queensland Government has confirmed.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne briefed commercial fishermen and prawn farmers about the latest outbreak this morning.
Mr Byrne said white spot was found in two locations in the bay.
Queensland’s chief biosecurity officer Dr Jim Thompson said the virus was now unstoppable and would have to die out naturally, but the movement control order was designed to contain the spread.
“You don’t control the virus if it’s in the wild, the aim is to contain it so that it doesn’t go any further, and make sure that eradication programs on farms continue to be effective. We can’t stop it if it continues to spread slowly,” he said.
“There’s one incident of white spot in the wild in Australia in the past [in Darwin] — it did die out in that circumstance.
“We had hoped we might see something similar here. That is considered a difficult issue to understand — we will have to do testing for a number of years to continue to follow where it’s going.”
The disease was first detected last year in prawn farms in the Logan River, south of Brisbane.
What is white spot virus?
White spot disease in prawns is highly contagious, lethal to crustaceans and has reduced prawn farm productivity by up to 40 per cent overseas.
Mr Byrne will this afternoon announce new measures to deal with the outbreak.
Australian Prawn Farmers Association president Matt West said the industry was crushed and deflated and needed a lot more support.
Seven prawn farms on the Logan River have tested positive to the devastating virus, which caused productivity losses of up to 80 per cent.
One of the largest farms, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, lost 25 million black tiger prawns when it was forced to destock as part of the eradication program earlier this year.
In February, more than 100 wild prawns tested positive for the virus in Moreton Bay, just south of the Logan river mouth.
The APFA had accused the Federal Department of Agriculture of “dropping the ball”, following revelations that high numbers of diseased prawns are entering and being sold in Australia.
APFA executive officer Helen Jenkins also accused the department of “failing in its duty of care” to protect the industry from the major biosecurity risk, white spot disease (WSD).