Queensland prawn farmers to receive $20 million to help recover from white spot

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Prawns
Prawn farmers will receive $20 million from the federal government to help with their recovery from the outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland. Wikimedia Commons/Noblevmy at Malayalam Wikipedia

Prawn farmers will receive $20 million from the federal government to help with their recovery from the outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland. Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the assistance today, saying the amount will cover reimbursement costs.

“This additional funding of $20 million will be delivered directly to the prawn industry, with $4 million to be repaid by prawn farmers through an industry levy once affected producers are back on their feet,” The Courier Mail quoted the minister. The prawn industry is said to be in limbo due to the white spot outbreak as stocks reportedly deplete amid fears the contagion will spread.

FishCo owner John Fragopoulos described the agriculture prawn season this year as a “disaster.” He admitted that the catch has been limited and is not enough to meet the local demand. The white spot outbreak crippled prawn after it hit Moreton Bay and Logan River.

In south-east Queensland, prawn farms on the Logan River also had to endure flooding last month. Canberra Times reported last month that the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries started decontaminating seven prawn farms on the Logan River affected by the white spot disease.  However, heavy rains hold-up efforts to dry them out for decontamination.

Richard Knuckey, the manager of the Cairns hatchery, said they did not intend to displace prawn farming although the groper market was growing, ABC reported. For Chris Russell, owner Ocean Fresh Seafoods, his wild-caught prawns are for standard prices because they are not affected by the white spot outbreak. "This season has been very good still, there's been good catches up north,” he told Canberra Times.

Meanwhile, some restaurants are reportedly increasing the price of prawns while others are opting to eliminate them from menus amid the white spot disease scandal. Daniel Hughes, executive chef at Manta Restaurant, said the price of prawns rose about 20 percent in the past year. He told The Australian that prawns remain to be a major staple on the restaurant’s menu, but the cost of available prawns really went high.

White spot, which was detected in six southeast Queensland prawn farms last year, is believed to have been brought to Queensland farms by recreational fishers who used infected prawns as bait in local waterways. The spread of the infection prompted the federal government to ban importation of prawns in January. For more of the country’s latest news, watch video below.

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