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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3373

Prawn Industries

(Question No. 930)


Mr Katter asked the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, in writing, on 26 February 2018:

1. Is he aware that both the farmed and wild caught prawn industries in South East Queensland have been decimated in the last two years by white spot disease, an exotic disease fatal to prawns and other crustaceans transmitted by diseased, low quality imported raw prawns being used by recreational anglers for bait in local waterways.

2. Is he aware that the Queensland Government is now spending millions on advertising the risk to recreational fishing that the pathogens in these prawns present and that this initiative will not connect with many in the fishing fraternity—it really is only a matter of when, not if, other fisheries are affected.

3. Is he aware that this disease, if not eradicated totally (and banning imported product is the logical first step), has the potential to wipe out both the inshore commercial and recreational fisheries.

4. Are our local commercial and recreational fishing industries not worthy of the same protection from this exotic scourge that the banana industry received after cyclones Larry (2006) and Yasi (2011) decimated the local banana industry and there was a strong push from retailers to import foreign bananas but biosecurity risks, concerns and issues ensured that banana imports never went ahead.

5. Will the Australian Government consider permanently suspending the importation of raw foreign prawns and associated raw prawn products in light of the biosecurity disaster currently emerging in South East Queensland; if not, why not.


Mr Littleproud: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

1. I am aware of the impact the white spot disease (WSD) outbreak had on farmed and wild caught prawn industries in south-east Queensland. However, the cause of the outbreak has not been determined, and a number of plausible pathways exist. It is possible that the cause of the outbreak may never be known.

2. I am aware the Queensland Government has employed a communications campaign regarding the use of imported prawns as bait. The cost of this campaign and its effectiveness is a matter for the Queensland Government.

3. I am aware of the potential impact of WSD if it becomes an established disease. Enhanced import conditions have been put in place and future import conditions will be considered through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources review of import conditions for prawns and prawn products, which is currently underway.

4. It is important that the biosecurity risks associated with imports are appropriately managed, regardless of the commodity being imported to ensure that our unique biosecurity status is maintained. It is important to note that the biosecurity risk posed by the importation of different commodities is assessed and managed in different ways, as they face unique risk factors.

5. Our two-way trading relationships are vital for Australian producers who rely on selling their products overseas and the government has an obligation to allow agricultural imports, where the science says it is safe to do so. Trade cannot be stopped without a valid reason, as this would inevitably lead to reciprocal actions from other countries. This would be undesirable for a nation like Australia that relies on selling its agricultural products overseas. However, it is important that the biosecurity risks associated with imports are appropriately managed.

Imports of uncooked prawns and prawn meat are only allowed under stringent import conditions that manage the biosecurity risk associated with this product. Future import conditions will be considered through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources review of import conditions for prawns and prawn products, which is currently underway.