Rob Hutchings from Freshwater Crayfish Traders at Tarome.
Rob Hutchings from Freshwater Crayfish Traders at Tarome. Inga Williams

Prawn, crayfish farmer calls for ban on foreign imports

SCENIC Rim prawn and crayfish farmer Rob Hutchings will review his biosecurity protocols after four of his fellow Queensland farmers were decimated by a recent outbreak of white spot disease.

Luckily Mr Hutchings has had no sightings of the virus in his crustaceans, but said the outbreak has made him more cautious when it comes to his biosecurity practices.

"Prawns aren't our main product but we sell hundreds of thousands of them," he said.

"It has made us debate whether we should change our biosecurity practices.

"We let people come and see the farm with no concerns but we are now debating whether we should only let people park their cars so far into the property or have them take their shoes off for example.

"There are a lot of biosecurity measures we could take that we didn't feel the need to before."

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Over the last two months, four farmers on five properties have had their prawn harvests affected by white spot disease on farms between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Biosecurity officials have been monitoring farmed and wild prawns in south-east Queensland after white spot disease was detected in the Logan River area last month.

In response to the disease outbreak, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced yesterday the importation of green prawns into Australia would be suspended.

Mr Joyce told the ABC that about $50 million worth of green prawns were imported annually.

Freshwater Crayfish Traders at Tarome.
Freshwater Crayfish Traders at Tarome. Inga Williams

Mr Hutchings - who operates Freshwater Australian Crayfish Traders in Tarome - believes importing fresh prawns into Australia should be permanently banned following the outbreak of a disease.

"Biosecurity is an issue our government takes very seriously but fresh prawns can carry anything," he said.

"I am surprised they haven't been banned already.

"Australia has a reputation for our produce being disease-free and this may damage our prawn export industry."

Queensland's peak seafood industry body has welcomed the federal government ban on importing uncooked prawns.

The Queensland Seafood Industry Association's (QSIA) president, Keith Harris said yesterday's announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was a positive step.

"The disease affects crustaceans. These products have a retail value of more than $270 million from Queensland alone so this is a very important issue for our state," he said.

White spot disease is harmless to humans but can cause high mortality rates for prawns, especially farmed varieties.