Damien Bell says buying local would eradicate white spot

A Mandurah fisherman has said the white spot virus can be avoided if people buy local produce. 

This statement comes after WA import requirements for live and uncooked wild crustaceans has eased following the 2016 Queensland white spot virus outbreak.

Mandurah Licensed Fishermen's Association president Damien Bell said if people supported local products at all levels, there would be no issue. 

“Buy fresh, local and sustainable products,” Mr Bell said. 

“If we support local fisherman all around Australia, the issue goes away.”

White spot is a highly contagious virus that affects farmed and wild crustaceans including prawns, crabs and lobsters, but does not pose a threat to human health or food safety. 

In December 2016, the virus caused high rates of stock mortality on seven prawn farms in South East Queensland, that have since been decontaminated.

The virus did not occur in WA wild prawns or farms. 

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Recfishwest operations manager Leyland Campbell said there was speculation that food-grade prawns from supermarkets that were being used as bait was the reason for the outbreak.

“Good fishing practice would suggest you dont use supermarket prawns for bait,” he said. 

“Most fishers know that the best prawn is caught with local bait.”

Mr Campbell said the virus would be a serious Australian issue if it was not monitored properly.

“This horrible situation has highlighted just how vulnerable all fisheries can be and all fishers need to be aware of how their activities can impact the environment,” Mr Campbell said. 

“If it gets a stranglehold in Australia, there is only a matter of time that it will spread to whole of Australia.”

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development  have eased the import requirements by  reducing the restricted area, allowing imports from NSW and a wider area of Queensland into WA.

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The new requirements also allow for wild crustaceans from South East Queensland to again be imported into WA if they’ve been treated with gamma irradiation, that kills the virus. 

Cooking destroys the virus, so all cooked products continue to be able to be imported into WA.

Aquatic Biosecurity Compliance manager Brad Tilley said the changed import requirements remained a precautionary measure and would be subject to review as new information became available. 

“These updated requirements further support the seafood industry, by permitting more bait and seafood supplies into WA, and continue to support the White Spot management work being done in Queensland and locally to reduce the risk of the virus entering WA,” Mr Tilley said.

“Importers are encouraged to check the requirements on the department’s website.” 

Due to the serious impact of White Spot and its ability to spread easily, people fishing or crabbing in WA have a critical role in preventing the spread of this virus by doing the following:

  • All seafood for human consumption, especially imported raw prawns, should not be used as bait as they may carry and introduce viruses to our waterways and have impacts on both farmed and wild prawns and other crustaceans.
  • Check your bait to make sure the prawns you use are Australian wild-caught from a quality, trusted bait supplier, or catch your own in your local area.  
  • Don’t dispose of crustacean waste including heads and shells in, or near, waterways.
  • Uncooked prawns and other seafood purchased from the supermarket or fishmonger are meant for human consumption only and must not be used as bait.

Prawns with White Spot may have a loose shell with numerous white spots on the inside surface of the shell and a pink to red discolouration.

Fishers should also check their bait prawns or other crustaceans for signs of White Spot and any thought to have the disease should be retained and immediately reported to the FishWatch hotline on 1800 815 507, which operates 24-hours a day.

More information about White Spot Syndrome Virus can be found at: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Sustainability-and-Environment/Aquatic-Biosecurity/Pages/Biosecurity-Incidents.aspx.