Seafood marketers are worried about the impact a ban on raw, imported prawns will have on the market.
Seafood marketers are worried about the impact a ban on raw, imported prawns will have on the market. Marc Stapelberg

Prawn import ban a long time coming: farmer

MATT West spends large parts of a working day washing his shoes.

Between every room at Ilbilbie's Australian Prawn Farm, where Mr West is general manager, sits a bucket of water for workers to wash gumboots as they leave and enter.

It's all part of the extraordinary levels of regulation on Australian prawn farmers, which Mr West labelled as "the highest in the world".

While he welcomed the Federal Government's interim ban on raw prawn imports on Friday, he was frustrated it had happened more than a month after white spot disease was detected in two prawn farms south of Brisbane, particularly given all the government regulation farmers abided by.

"It's a little bit a case of "too little, too late"," he said.

The ban came after the disease was detected in imported raw prawns sold at retail outlets.

It has also now been detected at five farms near the Logan River.

It hasn't been determined how the disease made it's way to Australia, but farmers suspected it was through uncooked, imported prawns, either being used as bait or tossed into the Logan River.

Mr West said the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, of which he is the president, had long been lobbying for a review to determine the risk of the uncooked imports carrying the disease.

"The farms themselves bend over backwards to abide by every single thing the government asks," Mr West said.

"(The detection) just frustrates the hell out of all of us."

He said the State Government was continuing to test in the Logan River to determine how the disease got to Australia, and said he would meet with State and Federal governments to determine the way forward for the industry.

He reiterated that the disease did not harm humans.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Keith Harris said the ban would help prevent spread of the disease.

"I recognise this ban as an interim move while the source of the infection is investigated and the adequacy of current biosecurity measures reviewed," Mr Harris said.

"I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister on this step and look forward to working with the Federal and State governments to help prevent the spread of the disease beyond the impacted areas where it has been discovered."

It is not yet clear how the ban will impact the availability of prawns for consumers.

All new shipments (departing overseas ports on or after January 9, 2017) of suspended imported prawn products that arrive in Australia will be required to be exported or destroyed.

Imported prawn products currently in transit to Australia will be subject to a new and enhanced 100% inspection and testing regime.

Mackay Reef Fish Supplies' David Caracciolo believes if the ban did impact all imported green stock, it would be "totally devastating for the market".

However, there are some exemptions (see below).



The suspension applies to:

  • Uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat
  • Uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat that have been marinated for human consumption.

The following prawn products are exempt from the suspension:

  • Uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat sourced from New Caledonia;
  • Uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat processed into dumplings, spring rolls, samosas, other dim sum-type products and other similar products
  • Uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat which have been coated for human consumption by being breaded, crumbed or battered.