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|Whitespot in Australia|
The shrimp whitespot virus had probably been nipping away at farmed shrimp production in Asia for over a decade, but it was not until it achieved a critical mass in Taiwan in 1988 that it began killing significant numbers of shrimp. At the time, Taiwan was one of the leading shrimp farming countries in the world, but when whitespot hit, it fell off the shrimp-farming map. After the Taiwan epidemic, whitespot jumped borders and crossed oceans to affect shrimp farms worldwide. In 1992, Thailand faced a devastating loss to whitespot, and in 1993 China’s production plummeted from 207,000 metric tons the previous year to 88,000 tons, resulting in the first worldwide decline in shrimp production, market shortages and record prices.
Then, in early 1999, whitespot crossed the Pacific Ocean to Central America and subsequently to Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and the United States. The most likely mode of transmission was processing plant wastes containing infective viral material from frozen Asian shrimp processed in the Americas. No country, however, has ever definitively identified the source of its whitespot epidemic. Theories include transmission by birds, bait shrimp, wild shrimp, shipments of raw and frozen shrimp, trade in shrimp broodstock and postlarvae, shrimp feed, weather and currents—and even the ballast water in ships.
Whitespot slowed the growth of shrimp farming worldwide for nearly a decade, caused multi-billion dollar losses and eventually spread to every major shrimp-farming country in the world—except Australia, probably because of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service’s strict import restrictions on raw and cooked shrimp.
In April 2010, Biosecurity Australia beefed up its quarantine rules in a bid to mitigate the risk of importing whitespot and other shrimp diseases. The new rules included mandatory testing samples of imports sourced from parts of the world that had whitespot and other shrimp diseases that Australia did not have. A ban was also imposed on imported uncooked shrimp being used for bait.
On September 3, 2010, however, a few months after the new rules took effect, the Biosecurity Services Group mistakenly released an infected 20-metric-ton shrimp shipment from Malaysia. They were released despite having tested positive results for whitespot—something that was only discovered about three weeks later. A subsequent review found there was an extremely low likelihood that infected shrimp would end up in so-called “high-risk pathways” and cause a whitespot outbreak. It said that most of the consignment would likely end up on dinner plates, and that it was unlikely to be use as bait. Some of those shrimp, however, were fed to broodstock at a hatchery in Darwin, setting off what was until this month Australia’s closest encounter with whitespot. The shrimp had been imported for human consumption, but were deemed to be of poor quality, so they were repackaged with their labeling removed and resold on the bait market. When it emerged that the infected consignment had been fed to broodstock at the Darwin hatchery, it sparked a national emergency response by biosecurity officials. All of the exposed broodstock were destroyed, but whitespot was detected in mud crabs near the hatchery’s outlet channel. But luck was on Australia’s side. In June 2000, 12 shrimp farms were checked for whitespot and none of them were positive. A survey showed whitespot was not present in Australia.
The November 2016 Whitespot Outbreak in Australia
On November 22, 2016, a srimp farmer on the Logan River, in Alberton, Queensland, reported a minor mortality event that resulted in a small number of dead shrimp, reduced feeding and some shrimp with unusual swimming behavior. Samples were collected on November 22 and 25, 2016, and processed with routine priority. Higher mortalities were reported on November 28, 2016.
Whitespot positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results from Queensland’s Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory were reported on November 30, 2016, and confirmed by the Australian Animal Health Laboratory on December 1, 2016. The source of the outbreak remains unknown. The agencies instituted measures to contain the disease at the affected farm. They aimed to eradicate the disease at that farm and confirm that nearby farms and wild crustaceans were whitespot free.
The disease has since been found at a neighboring farm. Queensland’s chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson said authorities were “very concerned” about the virus spreading, but were confident they could eradicate it, provided it had not spread further.
Thompson said, “We’ve got three properties that we are concerned about in that area, three closely linked properties. We have movement control orders over those, so we’ve basically got those properties locked down. The controls we’ve got in place are to protect the environment as well as other shrimp-farming enterprises, and we think that’s very much under control.”
Authorities are destroying the shrimp and decontaminating affected ponds to contain the outbreak and stop it from entering waterways.
Helen Jenkins, Australian Prawn Farmers Association chief executive, has written to seafood outlets assuring them none of the diseased shrimp will enter the domestic or international markets. “This is an isolated incident and will not affect the availability of shrimp for Christmas,” she said. “The disease does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.”
Peter Horvat, with Australia’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), said, “There is no clear idea of where it came from. [At this point in time] investigating the vector or pathogen’s pathway into Australia isn’t the priority. The clear focus is to contain and eradicate the whitespot virus.”
Biosecurity Queensland is continuing to destock and decontaminate ponds at two shrimp farms south of Brisbane, and neighboring farms are being checked to ensure that the disease has not spread. Horvat said authorities needed to first make sure the disease was contained and destroyed. “The who, the why and the how—when you’re dealing with a forest fire, for example—are not the primary concerns; you have got to deal with the crisis that is with them right this second, so they need to contain it and stop it from going any further.”
“There is a testing program being run through Biosecurity Queensland and industry to test not only shrimp farms in the area, but also to undertake surveys up and down the Logan River,” Horvat said.
As authorities struggle to contain the disease, parts of the Logan and Albert rivers, around Alberton, have been locked down to some fishermen. Shrimp farms that rely on the Logan River are being disinfected and shrimp stocks destroyed. To view this area, go to these map coordinates—27° 42' 11.39" S, 153° 16' 08.04" E —in Google Earth, or just copy and paste them and put them in Google Earth’s search window at the top left of every page. You might have to zoom out to see both rivers and all the farms.
Dallas Donovan, operations manager for the Seafarms Group, the largest shrimp farming operation in Australia with about 160 hectares of shrimp ponds in northern Queensland said he was confident the disease could be eradicated and would not be a blight on the country’s highly regarded aquaculture industry. “We have seen that in other countries where eradication has occurred, and it requires a sustained effort and a good solid response,” he said. [Shrimp News: I don’t think whitespot has ever been eradicated from any country where it has become established, but if the outbreak in Australia can be isolated and contained, it could potentially be eradicated.]
Horvat from the FRDC said it was also important to acknowledge the wellbeing of the affected farmers. “They are not large producers.... They are small family-run business,” he said. “Having worked for the entire year in the lead up to Christmas and then having your stock destroyed is heart-wrenching from anyone’s perspective.”
After being detected on a third farm, whitespot was also discovered in wild shrimp in the Logan and Albert rivers. Shrimp farmers have been confined to their farms, and Biosecurity Queensland banned people from taking worms, shrimp and crabs from the rivers. Eight aquaculture facilities line the Logan River and produce 40 percent of Australia’s farmed shrimp. Biosecurity Queensland placed heavy restrictions on all eight farms, and the virus-free facilities were placed under a self-imposed lockdown after the disease was discovered in wild shrimp populations in the Logan River. Shrimp farmers in the area have been told that no one is to enter or leave their properties.
Queensland’s chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson said commercial and recreational fishermen have been forbidden from taking crustaceans and worms from the Logan and Albert rivers. Thompson said, whitespot “causes massive mortality quite quickly, so if you’ve got your livelihood in a crop of shrimp that’s sitting there at the time it can really have a devastating impact. We are moving quickly to reduce the chance of the virus spreading any further through locally caught wild shrimp.”
One major concern is the possibility that a recent rainstorm washed the disease further downstream. “With the confirmation in the wild, the focus will now shift to reducing the risk of spreading the virus, and our objective is to slow it down to give us a better understanding of where it is and what it may be doing,” Thompson said.
Shrimp farmer Nick Moore’s property was unaffected by the outbreak, but his farm has been quarantined. He said he could no longer exchange water from the Logan River, meaning the shrimp could not be fed properly. “If you can’t feed them properly the 100 metric tons of shrimp in there at the moment, they will die,” he said. Moore is optimistic his farm can survive the outbreak. “This is certainly the most serious time in my 30 years of shrimp farming but having said that, around the world this is not new, they’ve come back.”
Updates on the Whitespot Outbreak
• Southeast Queensland farmer Elwyn Truloff said only two of his 25 ponds
• Tanker loads of chlorine are being poured into shrimp ponds south of Brisbane
• Queensland’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister has ruled out monetary compensation for the affected shrimp farmers.
• A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said there had been no more positive detections since the first ones last week and eight testing sites had since
• A bait shop has had samples of its product seized following speculation the disease was brought in by imported bait.
• One farm’s stocks have already been destroyed. Work is continuing on the
The Shrimp List Responds to the Above Report
Shrimp News: The Shrimp List is a free, email-based, unmoderated, mailing list for shrimp farmers that distributes information posted by one member of the list to all the other members of the list. Anyone can use the lists to ask and answer questions, to keep participants up-to-date on a conference, to coordinate a project or to pass industry news around.
K.K. Vijayan (firstname.lastname@example.org): It’s likely the virus arrived in Australia on imported frozen shrimp. In India, whitespot is ubiquitous. Using specific pathogen free seedstock (SPF) and zero-water-exchange systems, farmers have leaned to live with it.
Patrick Wood (email@example.com): There are no white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) farmers in Australia. Shrimp farmers grow giant tiger shrimp (P. monodon), which are more susceptible to whitespot than white shrimp, but when tigers are grown extensively in Vietnam, they do not break with the disease.
Alain Michel (firstname.lastname@example.org): The whitespot outbreak in Australia reveals the limits of biosecurity because there is no country that took more biosecurity precautions than Australia. We need to recognize that we have to live with our pathogens and not think we can prevent them from entering our ponds.
Karunasagar Karuna (email@example.com): Of course, even with the best of measures, it’s impossible to keep the pathogens out of our ponds, but we have to give biosecurity our best shot, especially with country-to-country shipments. The big lesson to learn from Australia is that biosecurity regulations kept whitespot at bay for fifteen years. Isn’t that the precautionary principle that we— vulnerable humans—are trying hard to follow for all illnesses? Biosecurity Australia as well as the whole country needs to be complimented for delaying the onset of whitespot for as long as it did.
Daniel Gruenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org): Ramesh, with all of Australia’s biosecurity protocols, like requiring that all shrimp imports be cooked, it is highly unlikely that bait shrimp were the source. The gaping hole in their regulations was that there was a loophole that allowed raw shrimp to be imported as long as it was marinated! This was almost surely the source of the whitespot outbreak. When I was working at Tokyo Fisheries University in the 1990s the way we experimentally infected shrimp was to just buy frozen tiger shrimp from Taiwan in the supermarket and feed them to shrimp in the tanks. It nearly always resulted in a whitespot infection.
Whoever thought of allowing raw, marinated shrimp imports deserves a Darwin Award[an award given to inept individuals who remove themselves from the genetic pool by killing themselves through some act of exceptional stupidity].
While I agree that we must learn to live with pathogens, there are certain special cases where biosecurity is warranted. Venezuela, for example! To this day, there’s still no whitespot in Venezuela. Unfortunately, Australians will have to learn to live with whitespot, but the good news is that many countries have learned to live with it, and Australia can benefit from their experience.
Ramesh Sivaram (email@example.com): Hi Daniel, I agree that imported, marinated shrimp could have been the source of the whitespot outbreak, but who would wash out a spicy shrimp and use it as bait, especially when you’re not likely to catch anything with oil and spice. Indonesia has experienced massive shrimp mortalities from whitespot, and it’s just across the Timor and Arafura seas from Australia. Whitespot could have been carried to Australia on currents, by birds or other vectors.
Patrick Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org): Ballast water from ships is always high on the list of sources of whitespot. Thinking that shrimp production in open ponds can be biosecure is wishful thinking and perverse.
Unfortunately, in cases like this one, there are no options but to abide by the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and Australian regulations and destroy all the infected shrimp.
Ramesh Sivaram (email@example.com): Australia has had some of the warmest temperatures in history over the last few months, which could have activated dormant whitespot viruses.
M.Q. Ahmed (firstname.lastname@example.org): Daniel, in one study, an increase in water temperature from 27° to 33°C showed opposite effects in whitespot-infected shrimp (P. vannamei), depending on the stage of infection. In the acute stage of infection, an increase in water temperature significantly decreased mortality, probably by inhibiting virus replication. However, during the chronic stage of infection, higher water temperatures caused a rapid progression of the disease and mortality in whitespot-infected shrimp (M.N. Rahman et al., 2007 Aquaculture 272:240-245, as cited by Arturo Sanchez-Paz, 2010, Veterinary Research 41:43).
John Birkett (email@example.com): Patrick, you’re right. Everybody in the specific pathogen free world is just following the academically approved epidemiology 101 procedure. Find and destroy, and you'll be OK. Guest what? It’s ludicrous to think that open ponds could be kept free from this pandemic forever! Amazingly, however, there are plenty of very wise technicians that believe in this very gullible approach.
Giovanni Chasin (firstname.lastname@example.org): Northeast Brazil was hit with WSSV in 2011. We direct-stock WSSV and IHHNV positive postlarvae (PL-12s, Penaeus vannamei) or transfer juveniles (0.5-1.0 grams) from nursery ponds. They appear to be somewhat disease resistant, and we get good production from them in salinities ranging 30-60 parts per thousand. The juveniles show better survival rates, ranging from 45-70% at 100 days. We harvest 16-17-gram shrimp from stocking 12 juveniles per square meter. With higher stocking densities (80 PLs a square meter), we get survival rates of around 55-60% and 8-10-gram shrimp in 90 days. We use open ponds—no fences for crabs, no lines for birds, no liners, no water disinfection—and we are breaking the first rule of biosecurity by stocking whitespot-positive postlarvae.
December 24, 2016, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
Owners of the three Australia shrimp farms that were hit with whitespot are convinced that their shrimp contracted the disease from crustaceans in the adjoining Logan River, or from imported shrimp either used as fishing bait or discarded into the river. Ian Rossmann, owner of the first farm to detect whitespot had, to destroy one million dollars (A$) worth of shrimp. He said, “I just find it so disturbing that we in Australia, with a clean bill of health, have been importing an exotic disease like this and authorities have let it go by.”
Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has a rigorous testing regime that requires every shipment of imported raw frozen shrimp to be tested for whitespot disease. It’s illegal to sell imported shrimp as bait, and all imported shrimp must be headed and peeled. The department confirmed that 73 import shipments have tested positive for whitespot since May 2016. The majority of them were destroyed or exported. A department spokesperson said, “It is premature and counterproductive to make any assumptions [about the virus’s entry into Australia] at this time.”
Six wild shrimp from the Logan River have been found to have low levels of whitespot, according to Biosecurity Queensland, adding that there was “no reason to believe that the virus that causes whitespot disease is established in local wild crustacean populations including shrimp caught for bait.”
Elwyn Truloff from Truloff Prawn Farms, one of the farms hit with whitespot, said he was convinced that imported shrimp led to the infection on his farm. “This is the first harvest we have missed in 27 years, and it has given us a real boot in the stomach. It is all because authorities have not followed protocol by getting testing done right,” he said. “We have told them hundreds of times [to stop imports], but it falls on deaf ears; that is the problem.” Truloff and the other affected farmers have ruled out shrimp hatcheries as a source of the infection. “We have our own hatchery run by my two boys, and we have proven it hasn’t come from our hatchery because we send shrimp to three other farms and they don’t have the disease; it’s just us,” he said. “It has definitely come from the wild.”
In fact, all the affected farmers have ruled out other possible pathways for the disease, such as hatcheries and animal feed. Rossmann said it is unlikely the disease came onto his farm in shrimp feed because the feed is heated to 90 degrees during processing and such temperatures would have killed the virus.
Simon Rossmann, another farmer with whitespot on his farm, also rejected the idea that hatcheries were the source. “I’m 100 percent convinced because the hatchery we source from supplies other farms up the coast of Australia, and they haven’t contracted the disease,” he said. Rossmann and his brother had only been farming for three years and described the outbreak as a massive setback in their agricultural careers.
The farmers are angry at having to destroy all of their shrimp because some of their ponds showed no symptoms of whitespot.
The Australian Government’s Aquavet plan for water veterinary emergencies says farmers were allowed to harvest stocks that were still free of the disease. “The Government’s legislation, the Aquavet plan, says [authorities] will only destroy infected ponds, but they progressed to kill all our healthy livestock that were only weeks away from making a good income,” Rossmann said. “Most of our ponds that were destroyed didn’t have any sign of disease. All the tests came back negative, but they destroyed them anyway.”
Authorities pumped about 700,000 liters of chlorine into 34 ponds across the three farms to kill the infected prawns. “We pleaded to leave all the other ponds alone, so we could try to grow them out and that we would know if it had spread,” Truloff said. “But instead of having just three or four ponds to cull, [authorities] now have the whole damn farm to deal with because they don’t know if it was in the other ponds.”
The Aquavet plan stated that ponds of juvenile shrimp that displayed no evidence of exposure to whitespot could be grown to harvest size, provided the chance of being infected was “acceptably low”.
However, a spokesperson for Biosecurity Queensland said the Aquavet plan was only used as a guide and could be updated depending on the degree of risk. “The management of whitespot disease is in accordance with the nationally agreed Emergency Animal Disease Response Plan (EADRP), which requires that all ponds on an infected farm be destocked,” the spokesperson said. “The risk associated with leaving individual ponds untreated is too great, and the priority is to protect the immediate environment and the broader industry from any potential source of infection.”
Truloff said he wanted to be compensated for the loss of juvenile stock, which he estimated would have been worth four million dollars (A$) come harvest time. “We will be [seeking compensation] because I think we are entitled to quite a bit back because we have lost one million dollars (A$) [in stock],” he said. Truloff also said he was still having to pay thousands of dollars per day in operating costs, despite not having an income. “We are also obliged to keep all the paddlewheels going in the ponds to stir the chemicals...to kill them all,” he said. “Just with electricity and feed, it is costing us 5,000 dollars (A$) a day.”
Queensland’s Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne has previously ruled out compensation, and now the Australian Government has too. A spokesman for the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said, “as there are no national emergency response arrangements in place for the management of aquatic animal diseases, reimbursement of costs for lost stock will not be available to affected parties.”
Biosecurity Queensland reports that two more shrimp farms have been infected with whitespot, bringing the total to five. Australian Prawn Farmers Association executive officer Helen Jenkins estimated that up to a third of the industry could be wiped out if hatcheries are not reactivated. She said the damage to the industry was directly affecting 115 families, not including the many families that support the industry with products and services. Already, A$25 million has been lost to the disease.
The latest outbreak occurred four kilometers downstream from the four farms that were hit earlier, leading farmers to fear the disease was loose in the Logan River. Just two shrimp farms on the Logan River (see map above), which hosts Australia’s largest cluster of shrimp farms and hatcheries, remain disease free.
Biosecurity Queensland is investigating the source of the virus and testing a range of materials to identify its potential for spreading further. It does not believe the disease has established itself in the wild crustacean population. It has currently enacted a biosecurity emergency order, halting the movement of crustaceans, worms and seawater in the area south of Brisbane. Testing will continue on the Logan, Brisbane and Pine rivers as well as in Moreton Bay.
Biosecurity Queensland has enforced emergency restrictions on movement and fishing activities on the Logan River, but still does not know where the disease came from or how it moved from farm to farm.
Rocky Point Prawn Farm owner Murray Zipf said he feared the disease would soon carry downstream to his 12 ponds near the river’s mouth. “I’m going to church on Sunday, and that’s about all I can do,” Zipf said. “It’s the end of shrimp farming here; we’ll have to bring in shrimp from overseas now.”
January 8, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
• On January 5, 2017, Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce bowed to pressure from shrimp farmers and indefinitely banned the importation of raw, frozen shrimp. Shrimp farmers have been lobbying for the suspension of Asian shrimp imports for years. Mr. Joyce said Australia imported about A$50 worth of shrimp a year and that whitespot could devastate Australia’s A$360 million a year shrimp industry. The import ban will remain in place until the risks are minimized. The ban won’t affect imported cooked shrimp.
• Australian Shrimp Farmers Association board member Nick Moore has welcomed the import suspension, but says it’s akin to shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. “Can you imagine deliberately importing a product with a virus that can actually infect non-infected stock?” Moore, who manages one of the infected farms, also said, “There is absolutely no doubt that farmers on the Logan River and any farmer affected by this in the future will be seeking some sort of financial assistance.”
• Biosecurity Queensland has been firing gas guns (propane scare cannons, that make a loud noise) along the banks of the Logan River in an attempt to scare off birds that might be spreading the whitespot virus.
• The whitespot virus has been detected in a crab found in a drainage channel near one of the infected shrimp farms.
• A shrimp importer is likely to be charged with a criminal offense, and another four importers are under investigation for deliberately evading biosecurity controls, according to Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce.
What Does the Australia Public Think
Shrimp New: 57 readers of The Weekend Australian Magazine responded to one of the magazine’s articles on the disease outbreak. Their comments were moderated before publication to promote a lively and civil debate. Not one of the respondents had anything good to say about imported shrimp, and all of them were against the way the government was handling the whitespot outbreak. I’ve only posted a dozen, or so, of their comments below, but they reflect the general tenor of the whole discussion:
Susan: Those imported shrimp taste of nothing. You might as well suck your little finger, as it is likely to have has much flavor.
Dean: I hope they put away whoever maliciously brought this disease in for a very long time and take everything they own in compensation for the industry and livelihoods they ruined.
Sanchia: I am an ardent supporter of free trade, but not when it comes to importing food. Our elevated food safety standards are the best in the region, and nothing from Asia can be taken for granted or at face value.
Debra: Australians have visited Asia by the millions and have to be blind not to see the polluted waterways. How people could buy imported seafood from there to save a few dollars is unbelievable.
Peter: Go into your supermarket anywhere in Australia and try and buy Australian seafood. We shopped at several Coles and independent supermarkets across Western and South Australia and everything frozen was either from China or other Asian nations. We finally purchased some frozen shrimp at an inland town, and after cooking them and tasting them, we threw them out. They tasted like leather.
Bruce: The Industry has been begging for a ban for three years, and Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce did nothing. He only got involved when it became a media issue.
Joe the First: Which countries do we import shrimp from?
Robin: China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Peter: The importers should be made accountable because it is their responsibility to ensure the integrity of their products. If this causes any bankruptcies, all their assets should be seized, and the proceeds put towards remediation.
Dianne: Yet another Australian industry under threat due to Government bending over backward to enable foreign products of high-risk into the country to meet the profit targets of big businesses.
Durwood Dugger (email@example.com, http://www.biocepts.com/BCI/Home.html): Whitespot infects many crustacean species, including barnacles, brine shrimp, fiddler crabs and isopods—all found in the coastal regions where shrimp farms locate. All of them can carry the disease to coastal and inland shrimp farms.
Consequently, whitespot is not an “if”, but a “when” pathogen for the vast majority of open pond shrimp farms and enclosed farms that are not absolutely sealed and have protocols for checking feeds and workers.
System design and biosecurity management are the only effective ways to manage whitespot.
However, I have been quite negative on the Sea Dragon project for a long time now, but this has nothing to do with biosecurity, but with a whole host of other issues like not one major success of mega-shrimp farming anywhere in the world, lack of sufficient broodstock, lack of realistic marketing plans/projections and environmental and labor issues. Whitespot will expose this project as a pipe dream. You can’t build the largest Penaeus monodon farm in the world with the highest cost of production and expect it to be successful.
January 15, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
Authorities are expected to allege that at least one shrimp importer hand-picked only healthy shrimp for whitespot testing, from consignments otherwise known to have whitespot. Helen Jenkins, Australian Prawn Farmers Association chief executive, said, “There must be a full government inquiry...into AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) controls.” She said so-called approved arrangements under which some biosecurity activities are entrusted to established importers were akin to “putting the fox in charge of the hen house.” Jenkins called on Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to launch a broad-ranging inquiry focused on quarantine practices that would ask the question about whether there had been any corruption.
Australia’s new import ban on crustaceans applies to:
• Uncooked shrimp and uncooked shrimp meat
The following shrimp products are exempt from the ban:
• Uncooked shrimp and uncooked shrimp meat sourced from New Caledonia
The federal government’s ban on raw shrimp imports has altered market dynamics and could potentially cause shrimp prices to triple at the retail level. John Fragopoulos, managing director of FishCo Fish Market in Canberra, said he wasn’t looking forward to the ban because the public would have to pay much higher prices for their shrimp.
He said customers at his various wholesale and retail outlets in Canberra were already coming in and buying-up raw shrimp, fearing that they would disappear from the market. Stocks would remain available he said, but shrimp prices would surge due to the tighter supplies caused by the loss of imported product from countries like Thailand, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and India.
Fragopoulos said the current retail price for imported, medium-to-large, raw shrimp was A$20 to A$25 a kilogram, while similar locally produced shrimp were just over A$30 a kilogram.
He said the ban is good for the domestic shrimp farmers not hit by whitespot because it will increase their revenues, but that it’s bad for consumers because it will drive prices up, reduce competition and make the product less accessible to a broader range of people.
Fragopoulos said he doubted that whitespot could ever be fully eradicated, but still thinks the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) should “vigorously attempt to try and restrict it.” He said AQIS needed to apply more aggressive testing regimes to imported raw shrimp that enter Australia from Asian countries. He said the biosecurity watchdog should enforce strict product testing on exporters and governments in the countries of origin and improve screening standards upon arrival in Australia.
AQIS only tests one in 20 consignments of raw imported shrimp, and that sample is selected randomly, which is an unreliable and risky method, Fragopoulos said. “If the testing methods were tightened it would do more to protect local production from the disruptive...diseases like whitespot. Fines should be given out to those countries that export products into Australia with these diseases....”
One importer has already had its importation license revoked and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce’s department is also investigating other importers that have not followed importation protocols. The import ban will remain in place until the Director of Biosecurity is satisfied that the risk of whitespot coming into Australia is acceptably low.
Importers found guilty of deliberately tampering with random sample tests could be forced to pay the government’s $A3-million cost of cleaning up the whitespot outbreak. The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources suspended the import license of Chinese seafood company Sino last week. Sino allegedly provided samples of non-infected raw prawns for testing when its imported consignments were known to be infected with whitespot.
The shrimp farming industry has pointed to contaminated bait as the likely source of the outbreak, and investigators have confirmed some recreational fishermen have used shrimp meant for human consumption as bait in the Logan River.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Agriculture and Water Resourcesr Barnaby Joyce said investigators were searching for links between bait used in the river and imported shrimp carrying the virus. The Minister has not found definitive evidence linking the whitespot outbreak with imported shrimp.
In the past three years, 163 consignments of raw shrimp imports failed tests for whitespot.
A spokesperson for the department said today that Fragopolos’s claims regarding the rate at which imported uncooked prawns were sampled, at one in 20 consignments, was incorrect.
The spokesperson said 100 percent of batches of imported uncooked prawns—excluding marinated, crumbed and battered prawns and prawns sourced from recognized disease-free populations—were inspected and tested for whitespot disease.
From each batch, 13 random samples are tested, each consisted of five shrimp, the spokesperson said.
January 24, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce believes some importers could have been colluding to deliberately cheat Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity system by submitting shrimp for inspection that they knew were whitespot free, while delivering infected shrimp to markets. The Ministry is pursuing criminal charges against Chinese importer Sino and is continuing to investigate at least four others. Joyce said, “If they’ve done it, it’s a criminal event, and we’ll nail them!”
Harry Peters, a long-term seafood importer in Sydney, said the holes in the quarantine system were well known and needed to be closed down immediately. “We’re a quarantine-approved premise, and if I wanted to I could take product, substitute it for the inspector and nobody would know, but we don’t do that,” he said. “There are a number of importers who are flouting the rules, and you’d be surprised by the number of people who have come forward volunteering information simply to protect their own business.” Peters said the import ban would cost his industry A$500 million for every six months it remains in place. He is calling for rogue importers to be banned so the trade can re-start. “Throw them out, get rid of them and get rid of them quickly and let’s get on with our business and our lives again,” he said.
One of the infected farms is run by Nick Moore, who was forced by Biosecurity Queensland to destroy millions of his shrimp with chlorine, which, when added to his ponds, quickly changed the water from blue to a foamy brown, forcing the shrimp to leap out of the water gasping for air. Moore said it was distressing, “To watch them die like this is pretty bad, it’s as bad as it gets actually,” he said. “Their gills are getting torn apart by the chlorine; they’re trying to find oxygen.”
On a neighboring property, Murray Zipf and his family continue to harvest healthy shrimp as fast as they can. Zipf believes it is only a matter of time before whitespot hits his farm. The closest infected farm is only a couple of hundred meters away, “and I’ve had an infected crab in my outlet channel, so basically death is at my backdoor,” Zipf said.
Seafarms Group, which is planning a $A1.5 billion shrimp farming operation in northern Western Australia, has played down the potential impact of the whitespot outbreak on Queensland’s southern coast. Ian Trahar, chairman of the Seafarms Group and owner of nearly 40 percent of the company’s stock, said the outbreak was more than 1,200 kilometers away from its shrimp farming operations north of Townsville, Queensland. “Seafarms has not been affected by whitespot disease,” the company said in a statement. “The company maintains vigilant and active management protocols with respect to biosecurity. Seafarms senior operations team is very experienced in dealing with biosecurity issues like this.”
In other news, Seafarms said it was using New York-based adviser Lazard to access USA capital markets to fund development of its massive Project Sea Dragon. The company said it was moving ahead with the environmental approval process, an indigenous land use agreement and a project development agreement with the Northern Territory government. Seafarms estimates Project Sea Dragon will produce 120,000 metric tons of shrimp a year for the Asian market. Seafarms said it is using its existing shrimp farming operations as a pilot project for the Sea Dragon project.
Jim Thompson, Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer, said more than 8,000 samples had been taken from the wild, and only six were positive for whitespot, all of them taken before December 6, 2017. He’s very hopeful that whitespot is not widely established in the wild.
About 1,500 metric tons of shrimp are rotting in 112 ponds on five farms in Queensland, and the State Government has no idea what to do about it. Angry
farmers say their hands are tied as they risk polluting major waterways and affecting other industries if and when they drain the affected ponds, treated with 2.8 million liters of chlorine. None of the farms has received compensation from the state or federal government.
About 1,500 metric tons of shrimp are rotting in 112 ponds on five farms in
Queensland, and the State Government has no idea what to do about it. Angry
farmers say their hands are tied as they risk polluting major waterways and affecting other industries if and when they drain the affected ponds, treated with 2.8 million liters of chlorine. None of the farms has received compensation from the state or federal government.
“They haven’t worked out how they’re going to get the water out of the ponds,” long-time shrimp farmer Elwyn Truloff said. “They created this mess, let them fix it. We may never be able to grow shrimp here again.”
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said it was still developing a disposal and decontamination plan for 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 get back into production some time this year if there were no further significant detections of the disease, he added. Some farmers are worried that when the ponds were disinfected in December, small live crabs may have escaped from the ponds and carried the whitespot into the rivers.
Truloff, 75, said, “We’ve lost the bloody lot. The industry has been ruined over this. They can’t guarantee there’s no whitespot 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 and Albert rivers into their ponds. Truloff said Biosecurity Queensland had no idea about how to address the problem. He also criticized successive federal governments for allowing infected, raw shrimp into the country.
February 1, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
The shrimp farms decimated by whitespot disease in southern Queensland will receive emergency funding from the Federal Government and could return to production in 2017.
Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce has announced a A$1.74 million program to aid the shrimp farming industry and appointed a liaison officer to work with all the stakeholders affected by the whitespot outbreak. “I know that shrimp farmers have provided unconditional support to the Queensland Government’s response to the disease,” Joyce said. “That cooperation is essential, but it comes at a cost, and the welfare of Australian farmers must always be front of mind.” He said the funding would include up to A$400,000 in direct support for farmers, as well as A$900,000 to the Queensland Government to help cover its costs associated with the whitespot outbreak. The Australian Prawn Farmers Association and Queensland Seafood Importers Association will each receive about $A220,000 to fund their emergency activities.
Biosecurity Queensland, which has spent more than $A3 million containing the outbreak and trying to decontaminate the Logan River, said it was finalizing plans for cleaning up the infected ponds. “We are working closely with the farm operators as we finalize the details of the disposal process,” said chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson. “Our goal is to return these farms to production this year.” Thompson said the ponds would be further treated with chlorine, dried out for a month, and then treated with lime to help decompose the shrimp and destroy any remaining virus. He said, “Once it is deemed environmentally safe, we will release treated water into the adjoining waterways. ...We believe this is the first time it has been done anywhere in the world on this scale. It will take a number of months to complete.”
The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) spokeswoman Helen Jenkins welcomed the funding announcement, but said it was a small token or gesture. “It certainly doesn’t cover the farmers' costs,” she said.
Ian Rossmann, owner of the first shrimp farm to test positive for whitespot, said relative to his loss of more than $A1 million worth of shrimp, the announcement of A$400,000 to be shared between the affected farmers did not go far enough. However, he said the money would go some way in helping to relieve the financial stress on him and his family. “The magnitude of the effect of this virus is enormous, but we welcome any financial assistance to it,” he said. “I hope it is immediate because we are trying to keep staff on and work through the problem despite having no income.”
February 12, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
Even though the whitespot outbreak destroyed A$25 million worth of shrimp since late 2016, Logan River shrimp farmers are determined to continue operating.
On February 1, 2017, shrimp farmers met with government officials, industry representatives and legal, financial and scientific experts to sketch out a road map to return the farms to operation by the end of 2017. Any detection of whitespot in next year’s crop, due to be stocked in October 2017 and harvested around April 2018, would be a crippling blow.
The disease was first detected at Jeff Rossmann’s farm in November 2016. He said there are many financial questions, and the risks of going large scale and losing it all again are high. His son Luke said farmers had to finalize their decisions about restocking by July 2017.
More than 100 shrimp samples taken from a site south of the mouth of the Logan River have tested positive for whitespot!
Queensland’s Chief Biosecurity Officer Dr. Jim Thompson said, “We have tested more than 8,000 wild caught shrimp since early December with almost no positive results—until now! What has caused this sudden spike in positive cases at a new location is unknown at this stage. All avenues are being investigated to identify the source.”
“We will continue sampling and testing to monitor the survival of the virus in the wild and to assess if it has established in the natural waterways. A large number of samples are currently undergoing testing at various laboratories. The results will continue to inform our approach to the current program, including our surveillance activities. The current program has been approved as the best way to manage this issue by the National Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Disease (AqCCEAD), acknowledged experts in the field, and representatives from the Commonwealth and other states. The virus usually needs high densities of shrimp to take hold and spread. This is not generally the situation in the wild where populations of crustaceans are in much lower densities than in an aquaculture environment, so it’s possible the presence of the virus may reduce over time. While we will continue our current program of decontaminating the affected aquaculture farms in the area, there will be ongoing discussions with the individual farmers, industry and national authorities to identify strategies to allow shrimp farming in the area to continue. The restrictions on the movement of crustaceans and worms from the Logan and Albert Rivers will remain in place while we work with both the seafood and shrimp farming industries on a plan for the next season. In the meantime I...remind anyone going fishing in the area that they should source bait from bait shops and not...use store-bought shrimp that are...intended for human consumption.”
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has loosened its temporary suspension on the import of some uncooked shrimp products. According to a notice issued February 6, 2017, the Department’s Director of Biosecurity has agreed to exempt the following shrimp products from the import ban that went into effect on January 9, 2017: dried shrimp, shelf-stable shrimp-based food products, irradiated bait, pet fish food, aquaculture feed, and uncooked shrimp sourced from Australia’s exclusive economic zone. The notice states that the exemptions are a result of the Department’s ongoing work to resume the safe trade in uncooked shrimp products as soon as possible. The notice includes an assessment of the biosecurity risks presented by whitespot on uncooked shrimp products. The Director of Biosecurity agreed with the conclusion of the assessment that the above products pose a very low risk of introducing shrimp diseases, including whitespot, into Australia.
Australian-caught shrimp that were exported to another country for processing will not be exempt from the import ban, said the notice.
Experts fear whitespot could easily spread to other crustaceans such as mud crabs and Moreton Bay lobsters. Griffith University Ecologist Professor Michelle Burford said the disease could move into the main part of Moreton Bay, threatening a large chunk of Queensland’s A$120 million wild-caught fishing industry. “There is every potential for the disease to move into other areas,” Burford said. Dr. Thompson said in the wild, the disease usually needs high densities of shrimp to spread, so it could die out there.
The Australian Shrimp Farming Association (APFA) has accused the Federal Department of Agriculture of “dropping the ball”, following revelations that high numbers of diseased shrimp are entering and being sold in Australia. APFA’s executive officer, Helen Jenkins, has accused the department of “failing in its duty of care” to protect the shrimp farming industry from whitespot.
Recent Department of Agriculture figures show that 71 percent of imported, raw shrimp test positive for whitespot. “I was absolutely horrified; it’s a very scary figure and means that most of the stuff coming in has whitespot,” Jenkins said. “It is not looking like the testing regime has been correct because if they were testing every container, as they say they do, then something is not right.”
The Department has boosted its testing of imported shrimp, following the whitespot outbreak in December 2016. Recent figures show that of the 21 batches of shrimp coming in at the time that the ban on imports was announced, six (29%) were cleared while 15 (71%) tested positive for whitespot. The figure is considerably higher than what the department was initially detecting, prior to stepping up its testing methods.
From May to December 2016, the Department rejected 17 percent of raw shrimp imports because of positive whitespot tests, based on government figures that showed, of the 448 consignments that arrived in Australia in that period, 73 were rejected due to whitespot.
Serena Zipf, the only remaining shrimp farmer in the area not to have whitespot, said the industry should have been made aware earlier that infected shrimp were on sale in Australia. “If we had known that that product was out there in the market place we would have implemented additional biosecurity measures in order to safeguard our crop,” she said. “Some of us may have even decided that the risk was too high and we would not have run a crop.”
The Department of Agriculture is now testing raw shrimp for whitespot in supermarkets across Australia, but refused to say if diseased product had been found on sale outside of Queensland.
Shrimp farmer Ian Rossmann said any frozen supplies of imported raw shrimp should be destroyed. “There is a lot of product in our supermarkets with a high proportion that tests positive for whitespot,” he said. “Those shrimp can still be put into our waterways, further increasing the whitespot prevalence and that is a major concern.”
On February 8, 2017, a group of Logan River shrimp farmers, as well as the Australia Prawn Farmers Association (APFA), met with the Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, in Canberra, Australia’s capital. The APFA wants to discuss financial assistance and a levy system involving farmers, industry and government to help cover the costs of managing whitespot.
Ian Rossmann said APFA demanded that Joyce maintain the ban on raw imports, which is only expected to last for six months. “We need to retain the importation ban,” he said. Serena Zipf went a step further, calling for a Senate inquiry into the department’s handling of whitespot. “A full independent review, possibly even a senate inquiry, should be launched into how the system became so weak,” she said. “Farmers are rightfully asking, and I think the public should also be asking, how did it get so bad?”
March 10, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
On February 20, 2017, Rocky Point Prawn Farm, owned by Serena Zipf, the only shrimp farm on the Logan River that did not have whitespot, was shut down because whitespot was found in its shrimp. Looking ahead, Zipf said the only thing that could save the rest of the shrimp farms across the nation was an immediate recall and review of all imported shrimp in the marketplace. The Logan River farmers blame the Federal Government for failing to ban imported shrimp that carry whitespot.
Dr. Jim Thompson, Queensland’s chief biosecurity officer, said the decontamination process on all farms south of the Logan River would take months. “Work is in progress across the other properties including the gradual process of draining, drying out and clearing sediment from the farms, which have already been decontaminated,” he said. “It is our intention to have the affected farms in a position where they could commence operating again towards the end of the year.”
Recreational fishing lobby group Sunfish Queensland, which represents 45,000 recreational fishermen, has backed industry calls for a recall of imported shrimp from retail outlets after it was revealed more than half of tested imports were contaminated with whitespot.
Sunfish technical adviser Dr. Barry Pollock said a lack of awareness among anglers about the dangers of spreading whitespot was putting the environment and aquaculture industry at risk. “At the main outlets, mainly the big supermarkets, there are no warnings on the deli counters that the shrimp should only be used for human consumption and not for bait,” Pollock said. “In the frozen food section, the sealed packages of imported shrimp do carry a warning. The biggest problem is the shrimp in the deli section.” But Pollock said ultimately the only way to eliminate the risk was to stop the importation and sale of all imported raw shrimp.
Matt West, shrimp farmer and president of the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, said shrimp farmers were shocked because the Federal Government had not recalled product from supermarket shelves once the extent of whitespot contamination was known.
Logan River shrimp farmers say their futures hang in the balance, not knowing when they can begin restocking empty ponds or what government imposed conditions will be placed on the operation of their farms. The seven shrimp farms on the Logan River have been brought to a stand still, leaving owners with no income and an uncertain future.
Making matters worse is the rock bottom confidence the farmers have in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the supposed gatekeeper charged with keeping deadly diseases out of Australia.
The Federal Government has decided to recall all raw, imported shrimp, sending fears through consumers that the price of shrimp is about to go “through the roof”. An email from the Department of Agriculture to shrimp industry stakeholders said all imported shrimp were now being withdrawn so they could be tested for whitespot disease. “The decision to secure all uncooked shrimp imported prior to the suspension was not taken lightly, and will not be in place longer than necessary,” the email said. “It will be lifted as soon as the Department has assessed the level of biosecurity risk posed by the affected goods.”
The recall now applies to all shrimp imported before the Department introduced tougher border testing for whitespot and prior to when the ban came into effect on January 9, 2017.
The recall will apply to all raw shrimp and shrimp meat, including products that have been marinated. Exempt from the ban are raw shrimp that have been breaded, dried or irradiated to kill off diseases. In addition, shrimp meat processed into dumplings, spring rolls, samosas and other dim-sum-type products will not be included in the ban.
Sydney-based seafood importer Harry Peters, who is also the director of the Australian Seafood Importers Association, said the price of prawns could double. He said the recall would mean frozen shrimp would be held in storage until they could be tested, but given the high rate of diseased shrimp already recorded it was unlikely they would ever return to supermarket shelves.
Peters said the impact on shrimp prices is going to be massive. He thinks the recall will drive the price of raw shrimp up to A$40 to A$50 per kilogram. “There will be millions of dollars worth of shrimp tied up in cold storage around Australia until this is resolved, but the odds are these shrimp will have to be returned or destroyed.” Currently, shrimp prices are still relatively stable, around $20 per kilogram.
Assistant Agriculture Minister Anne Ruston said up to 90 percent of potentially infected shrimp would be recalled for testing, while rejecting claims the recall would enable retailers to hike up prices. “Anything that tested negative for whitespot or any other disease is free to go back on the shelves,” she said. “When you consider the value of Australia’s seafood sector, it wouldn’t matter what the cost was; we need to protect our industries.”
Ruston said the Government had asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure retailers did not jack up prices in response to the recall. “We have asked the ACCC Commissioner to keep a very close eye on what is happening in the marketplace,” she said. “Anyone who is caught artificially increasing the price to take advantage of an unfortunate situation will have the full weight of our regulations and penalties come down on them.”
The Honorable Joel Fitzgibbon, a member of the Australian House of Representatives and a political opponent of the current government, said claims that prices would not rise were incorrect. “It is likely the price of shrimp will go through the roof. We have had a number of major farms taken out of the domestic supply system, and there is a suspension on imports. Supply will be very short, and like any simple demand and supply situation I suspect prices will rise and they will rise substantially.”
A Department of Agriculture email said, “These consignments are being subjected to an enhanced inspection and double testing regime at the border to ensure any product entering the country is free from white spot disease.” The Department of Agriculture email also said importers could apply for exemptions to the import ban, provided they could prove the shrimp they were importing were not a biosecurity risk.
From the Philippines, Nelson Gerundo (firstname.lastname@example.org), responding to the whitespot outbreak in Australia, posted the following comments to The Shrimp List, a mailing list for the shrimp farming industry:
Now that all seven farms along the Logan River have whitespot, the next closest shrimp facility that’s whitespot free is CSIRO’s Aquaculture Research Station on Bribie Island. This facility is just 72.87 kilometers (45.28 miles) north of the shrimp farms on the Logan River.
What Australia should watch closely is the cluster of six shrimp farms at the mouth of the Clarence River in Yamba, just 188.39 kilometers (117.06 miles) south of the Logan River outbreak. Tidal currents tend to flow southward from the Logan River.
Nick Moore, general manager of Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, one of the seven shrimp farms on the Logan River that were forced to shut down because of the whitespot virus, says he will turn his attention to northern Queensland to keep his business afloat. Moore said his facility on the Logan River could be shut down for more than a year. “There are discussions with the government now as to whether this whole region should hold off restocking,” he said. “Not just until this November, but the following November, meaning almost two years of no farming in this region.” Moore revealed plans to offset the company’s losses through the expansion of its much smaller secondary facility at Mossman, near Port Douglas, in northern Queensland. “To have that farm producing product for us in a time when we won’t be farming here gives us at least an income for now,” he said.
Moore said $2.6 million would be spent on shifting its giant tiger, shrimp-breeding program to the far north, along with building another 20 hectares of ponds and upgrading a processing plant. Preliminary works could start as early as April 2017. He said that in northern Queensland, all shrimp harvests are done in November/January for the holiday period and to beat the wet season. “The plant needs to be able to handle that increase in volume, so we’ve got plans to build what I would consider being the most sophisticated processing plant on a shrimp farm.” He said the expansion, to be staged over at least two years, would result in an extra nine full-time jobs as well as providing spin-off economic benefits.
March 29, 2017, Update on the Whitespot Outbreak
At the recent World Aquaculture Society meeting in San Antonio, Texas, USA (February 20, 2017), Shrimp News interviewed Dr. Arun K. Dhar, the new director of the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory at the University of Arizona, which specialized in shrimp disease research and diagnostics. Dr. Dhar replaces famed pathologist Dr. Donald Lightner who was the director of the lab for several decades. At the end of the interview, I asked Dr. Dhar if he had any advice for the shrimp farmers in Australia who were facing the whitespot outbreak.
Here’s his answer:
“I’m very reluctant to give advice when I don’t have all the information. I think Australia has all the resources for making that decision on its own. It has excellent researchers, and they know what to do. They do not need advice from me. I have fond admiration for a number of researchers in Australia. I have collaborated on research papers with Dr. Peter Walker and Jeff Cowley. Peter is an excellent virologist and well known for his work globally. Leigh Owens and Nigel Preston are two other excellent researchers, and there are many more in Australia. Their track record is excellent. In addition, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is a fantastic organization with top-of-the-line researchers working in the field of virology.”
“Having said that, to stop the spread of any disease, I think the first and best weapon is prevention. That is, keep the disease out, and if it gets in, stop its spread. I don’t have exact numbers, but I think there are over 100 vectors for whitespot, including worms, other crustaceans and other aquatic animals. There’s no better strategy than blocking the spread. The area of the disease must be identified, and the disease must be stopped from spreading. Once a virus like whitespot is loose in the wild, it is very difficult to eradicate.”
“Shrimp can carry low levels of the virus without breaking with the disease, but those animals become a reservoir for the virus and can become vectors for its spread. If a disease becomes endemic, but remains at a very low level of infection, with no clinical manifestations, then it becomes very difficult to control. Look at the IHHN virus, a disease that’s endemic, but not killing shrimp. In many cases, you will find farms with shrimp that are infected with IHHNV at such low levels that may not cut into production, significantly. Sometimes, if a host is infected with one virus, it’s refractory [resistant] to infection from a second virus. It’s known that shrimp infected with IHHNV are refractory to whitespot syndrome, and, if I remember correctly, to the Taura syndrome virus as well.”
In a desperate bid to eradicate whitespot, Queensland shrimp farmers want government funding so they can hold off stocking their ponds empty until late 2018. The sense of urgency around the decision escalated last week when Biosecurity Queensland confirmed whitespot had spread to wild shrimp in northern Moreton Bay.
Australian Prawn Farmers Association executive officer Helen Jenkins said the best chance to eradicate whitespot at the Logan River farms was to shut down all shrimp farming for the coming season. She said Logan River farmers—who were forced to destroy their 2017 crop, worth more than $25 million—supported the move, but would need financial assistance. “It is getting quite urgent because the farmers need to be thinking about gearing up for the coming season if they are going to have a crop,” she said.
Queensland Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne supported the move, but said that financial assistance would depend on funds from the Federal Government.
Shrimp industry representatives said last week’s announcement that whitespot had been found in wild shrimp in northern Moreton Bay means there’s real potential for the exotic virus to spread north and wipe out the industry in northern Queensland, where three-quarters of Australia’s shrimp farms are located. Bob Katter, a member of the Australian House of Representatives, said, “Because the currents flow north, whitespot will now be taken up the Queensland coast.... Every single person associated with the shrimp industry and every scientist who ever looked at this knew if you [imported]...shrimp...you’d bring in whitespot ...and these damn people in Canberra [Australia’s capital] run around talking about our clean, green image.”
Queensland’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne established an immediate control order for the Moreton Bay region, saying it would be in place for three months “to allow the government to contain any potential spread of the virus, conduct further testing and determine future action.”
Under biosecurity laws, some 10 million shrimp were destroyed after whitespot was detected, including valuable broodstock.
Arriving at the invitation of the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, Francois Brenta, an international shrimp disease expert, will visit all seven infected shrimp farms on the Logan River in an effort to map out a plan of attack. He will assess all quarantined shrimp farms on the Logan River and elsewhere as part of a A$221,000 Federal Immediate Assistance grant from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Resources. Brenta has dealt with whitespot disease at several locations around the world.
Brenta says on-farm biosecurity practices are the only way shrimp farmers can protect themselves against the inevitable spread of the virus. He has witnessed the debilitating effect of whitespot in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. He has already visited shrimp farms and hatcheries from Port Douglas to Mackay in northern Queensland. As well as tightening on-farm biosecurity practices, he said the major focus now needed to be on the broodstock. “The entire shrimp farming industry in Australia has based its business model on the capture of wild...broodstock.... Therefore the broodstock that are typically captured and then used by the industry will potentially become infected. So it is going to be essential to develop, at a national level, a proper broodstock breeding program under complete biosecurity conditions.”
Most experts, including Brenta, think the virus will become endemic in Australia, as it has in other countries around the world.
Matt West, a shrimp farmer and president of the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, said rapid diagnostic responses were key to maintaining clean broodstock. The Association is now pushing to have a special laboratory set up in northern Queensland, preferably in Townsville.
The Queensland government has spent A$4.4 million, assigned more than 100 staff members to work on solutions and conducted more than 50,000 laboratory tests to detect the disease. Should the disease become established in Queensland, the research strategy will be to focus on selective breeding, diagnostics, biosecurity and treatment. Information: Peter Horvat (email@example.com).
2. The FishSite. White Spot Detected on Queensland Prawn Farm. December 2, 2014.
3. ABC News. Devastating Prawn Disease Found on Farms Near Brisbane; Authorities Destroy Prawn Stocks. December 6, 2016.
4. ABC Rural News. Australia’s Aquaculture Industry Confident White Spot Prawn Disease Has Not Spread to Wild Stock. Marty McCarthy and Charlie McKillop. December 7, 2016.
5. ABC News. White Spot Prawn Disease Spread Prompts Lockdown in Logan, Albert Rivers. December 8, 2016.
6. Yahoo News. Logan Prawn Farms in Limbo Over White Spot. December 12, 2016.
7. The Currier Mail. White Spot Prawn Disease: Shortage Looms as Farmers Told to Keep Feeding Prawns Due to Be Killed Off. Trenton Akers. December 12, 2016.
8. The Sydney Morning Herald. Prawn Fishers Face Huge Losses Over Christmas Peak. December 13, 2016.
9. 9News. Did Virus Hitch Ride with Imported Prawns? December 14, 2016.
10. The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers). Subject: Whitespot Confirmed on Three Shrimp Farms in Australia. December 13 to 16, 2016.
11. ABC Rural. White Spot Outbreak a “Wake-Up Call” for Australia’s Biosecurity System, as Prawn Farmers Claim Imports Are to Blame. Marty McCarthy.
12. The Sydney Morning Herald. Fifth Prawn Farm Tests Positive for White Spot Disease. Drew Creighton. January 2, 2017.
13. The Courier Mail. Third of Australian Prawn Farming Industry Could Be Wiped Out after New Case of White Spot Disease. Michael Wray. January 3, 2017.
14. Quest Community News. Gas Guns Fired to Scare Birds Spreading Shrimp Disease Along Logan River. Judith Kerr. January 4, 2017.
15. Courier Mail. Fears Grow as White Spot Detected in Crab in Logan River. Michael Wray. January 5, 2017.
17. The Weekend Australian. Criminal Charges Likely Against Shrimp Importer Over White Spot Disease. January 6, 2017.
18. The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers). Subject: White Spot Disease (WSD) in African Shrimp Industry: Acquired from Infected Wild Stocks. Durwood Dugger. January 9, 2017.
19. The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers). Subject: White Spot Disease (WSD) in African Shrimp Industry: Acquired from Infected Wild Stocks. Patrick Wood. January 10, 2017.
20. The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers). Subject: White Spot Disease (WSD) in African Shrimp Industry: Acquired from Infected Wild Stocks. Daniel Gruenberg. January 10, 2017.
21. Brisbane Times. Prawn Farmers Demand Quarantine Probe Over White Spot Disease Influx. January 9, 2017.
22. Chinchilla News. Prawn Import Ban a Long Time Coming: Farmer. Emily Smith. January 9, 2017.
23. Queensland Country Life. Prawn Prices Set to Soar Due to Import Ban. Colin Bettles. January 11, 2017.
24. NT News. Prawn White Spot Outbreak: Probe Finds Prawns Meant for Human Consumption Being Used as Bait. Michael Wray. January 11, 2017.
25. FarmOnline. No Definite Link Determined on Prawn Disease Outbreak. Colin Bettles. January 13, 2017.
26. News ABC. Importer’s Swapping Shrimp So White Spot Disease Is Not Detected, Barnaby Joyce FearsMichael Atkin. January 16, 2017.
27. The West Australian. Seafarms Plays Down Impact of White Spot Disease in Shrimp. Stuart McKinnon. January 17, 2017.
28. ABC Net.Au. Prawn Industry Ravaged by White Spot Disease. Michael Atkin. January 18, 2017.
29. Gold Coast Bulletin. Gold Coast Prawn Industry in Ruins as 1,500 Tonnes of Seafood Left to Rot. Nicholas McElroy. January 24, 2017.
30. The Courier-Mail. White Spot Outbreak: Prawn Farmers Granted Emergency Funding. Michael Wray. January 25, 2017.
31. ABC Online. White Spot Disease: Emergency Funding for Farmers and Wider Industry. Gail Burke, Marty McCarthy and Kym Agius. January 26, 2017.
32. Lloyd’s List Australia. FREE: Pawns Provoke PLO Appointment. Ian Ackerman. January 30, 2017.
33. Power 100. White Spot Disease Hits Sixth Prawn Farm. January 31, 2017.
34. News.com.au. Logan Shrimp Farmers Set to Return to Operations Despite Financial Risks of White Spot. February 2, 2017.
35. Quest Community News. White Spot Disease Spreads South of Logan River. February 7, 2017.
36. Vietnam News. Australia Eases Shrimp Imports. February 8, 2017.
37. Gold Coast Bulletin. 108 Shrimps with White Spot Virus Discovered on Gold Coast Could Spread Contagion into Moreton Bay. Nicholas McElroy. February 8, 2017.
38. News/ABC Rural. Agriculture Department Accused of ‘Dropping the Ball’ as New Figures Show Higher Rates of Diseased Shrimp Imports. Marty McCarthy. February 8, 2017.
39. Brisbane Times. Final Prawn Farm on Logan River Tests Positive for White Spot Disease. Toby Crockford. February 14, 2017.
40. ABC.net. Recreational Fishers Urge Authorities to Act on Contaminated, Imported Shrimp Being Used as Bait. Charlie Mckillop. February 15, 2017.
41. Redland City Bulletin. White Spot Crisis: Logan River Prawn Farmers Left in Limbo. Mark Phelps. February 21, 2017.
42: ABC.Net.Au. All Imported Raw Shrimp to Be Pulled for White Spot Testing; Fears That Prices Will Rise. Marty McCarthy. February 20, 2017.
43. The Shrimp List. The Cannon Blasting Continues. Nelson Gerundo. February 23, 2017.
44: Bush ‘n Beach Fishing. All Logan River Prawn Farms Now Infected With White Spot Disease. Aerial Picture. Gassman.com.au. February 23, 2017.
45. ABC.Net.au. White Spot Disease Forces Gold Coast Prawn Farmer to Head to Far North to Keep Business Afloat. Renee Cluff. February 28, 2017.
46. Shrimp News International’s webpage. Dr. Arun K. Dhar, The New Director of the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Posted on March 23, 2017.
47. The Courier Mail. Prawn Farmers Tackling White Spot Disease Want Cash to Let Ponds Lie Fallow. Michael Wray. March 19, 2017.
48. Queensland Country Life. Prawn Industry Fears Northern Spread of White Spot Disease. Sally Cripps. March 21, 2017.
49. Couriermail/Quest Community Newspapers. Prawn Expert to Visit Logan Farms. Judith Kerr. March 22, 2017.
50. ABC.Net.AU. International Expert Says All Stops Needed to Protect Australian Prawns from White Spot Virus. Lara Webster. March 23, 20
51. FISH (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation News). White Spot Disease Update. Volume 25, Number 1, Page 6, March 2017.
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