We’ve been getting some questions recently about our prawns and the dreaded “white spot disease” that has all but devastated the industry.
We’ll start by explaining what it is.
White Spot Disease is a viral disease affecting decapod crustaceans – which include; prawns, crabs, yabbies and lobsters – and it’s pretty contagious. In recent months, it’s been sweeping through Australian prawn populations – particularly in parts of Queensland. The virus infects cells within the prawns body which become necrotic and disintegrate. The infected prawns suffer organ breakdown and eventually succumb to the disease. Nasty business indeed.
The disease is primarily spread through the movement of infected animals or water. Birds feeding on affected crustaceans can contribute to the spread of the disease.
The disease was first identified in Taiwan back in 1992 where the disease was first identified, from there, aided by export and ocean currents, it spread all the way through Asia, eventually making its way to the Americas in 1995. Thanks to Australia’s famously strict quarantine laws we managed to avoid the scourge for decades.
Unfortunately, late last year the first sign of the disease appeared in Queensland, on a farm in the Logan River. The authorities are doing their best to keep the disease contained, but it’s a hard task when you aren’t even sure how it entered Australian waters.
The main priority for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries now, is to manage the condition and eradicate it quickly. On the other hand – by fear of having the prices raising so much because of the disease – the Federal Government has closed any trades with foreign countries with the purpose of not raising the prices on imported prawns.
It has affected hundreds of farmers and fisherman who lived from the business, leaving them without anymore incomes and losing a lot of jobs for hundreds of casuals.
The outbreak of this disease – after years of not been affected by the worldwide – it’s the biggest biosecurity outbreak to hit Australia’s aquaculture industry and jeopardises the future of Australia’s $80 million prawn farming sector.
In an effort to pinpoint the source of the outbreak the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, suspended import of raw green prawns to Australia – as this was one of the suspected sources of the disease – prawns used as bait or discarded pieces entering waterways are one theory for the spread.
The virus doesn’t affect humans and simply by cooking the prawn in boiling water for between three-and-a-half minutes would destroy it, but how it affects the growth and vitality of the host is the problem. It’s also worth noting that fish are not carriers of the virus, so no fish would be affected.
In these times, prawns have become more of a luxury than ever – and undeniably, they are . After months of looking and struggling to find quality Australian prawns, our fishmongers Red Coral have managed to find a farm in Mooloolaba that is situated in estuaries unaffected by the outbreak. They specialise in Northern Kings – a majestic breed of prawn with a rich sweet flavour. You’ll find them peeled in our Hawthorn, Kew, Malvern and South Yarra stores and online!