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Fears for prawn industry grow after white spot found in Moreton Bay

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The ban on movement of uncooked prawns and crustaceans outside a new control zone could lead to cheaper seafood for south-east Queenslanders.

Uncooked products will not be allowed to leave the area, which includes Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Moreton Bay, but they can be sold within the area.

Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said businesses that once exported their products outside the area "will have some difficulty".

"So it's likely that the supply issue will be oversupply in this area, and that the price point will be low," Mr Byrne said.

The movement order, effective immediately, includes crabs, prawns, yabbies, Moreton Bay bugs and marine worms.

EARLIER: Prawns caught at Moreton Bay have tested positive to white spot virus.


It comes after positive test results on several properties in the Logan River.

Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne briefed prawn farmers, commercial fishers and others in the industry on Thursday morning, but some trawlers are still at sea and will need to be spoken to when they return.

The prawns were caught within the past week at the Redcliffe Peninsula and Deception Bay, with 31 testing positive.

A movement control order for the Moreton Bay region is being established with immediate effect, Mr Byrne has announced.

It will be in place for three months to allow the government to contain any potential spread of the virus, conduct further testing and determine future actions.

The movement of raw prawns has been restricted, effective immediately.

The movement of raw prawns has been restricted, effective immediately. Photo: Supplied

The new movement control order replaces the existing restrictions on the Logan River and extends from Caloundra to the NSW border following the eastern coasts of Bribie, Moreton and Stradbroke Islands.

It will apply from today to all prawns and other crustaceans taken from within the Moreton Bay control zone.

It will mean green prawns and other uncooked crustaceans caught within the zone will not be allowed to be moved outside the zone, either on sea or land.

But cooked crustaceans will be allowed to leave the zone.

The restrictions do not apply to fish caught within the zone.

Chief Biosecurity Officer Jim Thompson said to ensure fishing and local trade in fresh Moreton Bay seafood can continue, the movement control area will include the western borders of the Gold Coast City Council, Brisbane City Council and Moreton Bay Regional Councils.

"Fishing, crabbing and catching prawns can continue in Moreton Bay and catchments covered by the order, including the Logan and Albert rivers but people will not be able to move uncooked crustaceans such as crabs, prawns, yabbies, Moreton Bay bugs or marine worms, which can carry the disease out of the area," Dr Thompson said.

People who want to move the products out of the containment area, whether for their own consumption or to sell in other markets, will have to cook them first.

Cooking the animals kills the virus that causes white spot disease.

Mr Byrne said the detections near the Redcliffe Peninsular and Deception Bay indicated the disease was more widespread than previously thought.

Dr Thompson said Queensland would consult with other jurisdictions as part of the implementation of the new movement control order conditions.

The government this week received a report from an independent expert advisory panel which details the likely long-term impacts of white spot disease and options to protect the Queensland industry.

The report shows there is no evidence the virus has impacted on the wild catch of prawns and other crustaceans, but it does highlight that limiting the risk of spread should be a priority.

A public information and education strategy will be used to inform the community about restrictions that will apply.

Mr Byrne said Queensland's wild caught and farmed prawns were safe to eat and the movement control order was a precaution against spread of the disease.

The federal government has already announced financial help for south-east Queensland prawn farmers affected by the disease.

The importation of green prawns was suspended in January after the first outbreak in Queensland in November 2016.

The Queensland government has already spent $8.6 million on emergency response activities.

Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson said the new white spot cases were devastating for people in the seafood industry.