Gold Coast prawn farmers are preparing to restock ahead of the warmer months as they try to bounce back from a disease outbreak that cost them millions.
But they fear White Spot will return and again force them to kill their prawns and flush their ponds with chlorine after being initially detected in the Logan River in 2016.
Gold Coast Tiger Prawns general manager Alistair Dick says the federal government is allowing the continued import of raw prawns carrying the crustacean disease, putting Australia’s seafood industry at further risk.
“The federal government, the Department of Agriculture, has still got their heels firmly dug in, standing by an import regime that continues to allow White Spot infected prawns to come into the country,” he said.
“There’s still a real possibility of a do-over here.”
Mr Dick and other farmers are preparing to restock in September but will remain subject to strict controls on the movement of raw prawns after the disease was initially found in the river and later detected in Moreton Bay.
Commercial fishermen who work in the bay are now preparing to sue the federal government for damages.
Fishers and farmers can no longer sell their raw product to markets that are still accessible to importers suspected of introducing the disease.
Dan Rossman of DS Farms says he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars installing filtering and water treatment systems to reduce the risk of a second infection.
He believes the disease is still in the Logan River despite testing clearing those waters.
“We either lose the farm or we invest more and go for it,” Mr Rossman said.
The Department of Agriculture says there is a lack of evidence to prove what caused the 2016 outbreak, but independent aquatic health consultant Dr Ben Diggles and department officials agreed it most likely came from infected imported prawns used as bait or berley.