Are our fisheries infected? Good news for prawn lovers

Tony Pizone of Mooloolaba River Fisheries eats one of his delicious prawns.
Tony Pizone of Mooloolaba River Fisheries eats one of his delicious prawns. John McCutcheon

SUNSHINE Coast seafood merchants want prawn lovers to know the wild-caught Mooloolaba prawns are not affected by the white spot disease that's destroying whole farm populations in the Logan River south of Brisbane.

An import ban on green prawns was introduced last week after a fresh outbreak of the disease was discovered.

Local seafood sellers say they've been inundated with phone calls from concerned customers, and want to set the record straight.

The fishery where Mooloolaba prawns are sourced is not affected by the disease, which has so far only been detected in farms and between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and in some wild prawns in the Logan River itself.

Mooloolah River Fisheries owner Tony Pinzone says his prawns are as fresh, juicy and healthy as ever, and remained the "favourite type of prawn" in Queensland and in southern states.

"We get rave reviews. New Zealand, everyone has raving reviews about them," he said.

"There's definitely no white spot in Mooloolaba wild-caught king prawns."

Criminal charges against a prawn importer thought to have deliberately flouted the Australia's biosecurity controls are likely to be laid, it was reported on Friday. A total of five importers are being investigated, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said.

However, a drop in supply of farmed and imported prawns will create increased demand for wild-caught prawns - a potential short-term benefit for the local seafood industry, agrees JD Seafoods owner James Day.

He operates a prawn trawling business, fishing the Eastern King Prawn Fishery that stretches from here to Gladstone. Much of his stock is sold to Sunshine Coast fishmongers.

The price of prawns would also likely go up, he said, although this hadn't yet been observed. He said the increased demand would not likely lead to overfishing, because of tight regulations.

"No good operators want to see the wild caught stocks overfished," Mr Day said. "We've both got investments in boats and facilities - we have to be 100% sustainable otherwise that's all gone for nothing."

Fisheries on the Spit manager Patrick Combettes said he hoped Australian customers would stop buying imported prawns and "start buying the local product".

Topics:  business seafood

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