Way forward to meet international white spot freedom standards

2 Nov 2023

A NSW DPI fisheries officer works to gather evidence to support self-declaration of freedom from white spot

NSW Chief Veterinary Officer, Jo Coombe, has announced the final phase of the state’s plan to meet standards required by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) to declare the Clarence area free from white spot.

“After completing decontamination activities at all three NSW prawn farms affected by the February 2023 white spot detection, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) now starts a long-term surveillance program,” Dr Coombe said.

“During this period consumers can continue to safely purchase and enjoy Clarence River prawns and seafood from local shops and suppliers.

“The surveillance plan, which meets international and national requirements, aims to support a self-declaration of freedom from white spot for the Clarence River Control Zone.”

Negative results from surveillance are required by WOAH in order to declare the area free from white spot.

Surveillance will involve four wild prawn sampling events, inshore and offshore in the control zone, at a minimum three months apart and at times when white spot, if present, is most likely to be detected.

Enhanced surveillance in prawn farms is planned when farming recommences.

Dr Coombe said NSW DPI’s surveillance plan assures our domestic and international trading partners that we are working to effectively confirm white spot prevalence is lower than agreed detectable levels.

“At the end of the program, if all results for surveillance are negative for white spot, a report supporting the self-declaration of freedom will be sent to WOAH,” she said.

“If white spot is detected, NSW DPI will consider the findings and adopt an appropriate management response, which could include additional surveillance.”

The Control Order restricting the movement of raw, uncooked prawns and marine worms from the Clarence River Control Zone will remain in place, up to June 2025, to support business and trade continuity in NSW and other parts of Australia.

NSW DPI will continue to catch and test prawns from Richmond River and its estuary in March each year as part of the national white spot surveillance program which has been underway since 2016.

White spot is highly contagious to crustaceans, can cause major mortalities in farmed prawns and does not affect people. NSW prawns remain safe for human consumption as white spot poses no threat to human health and safety. Consumers can continue to purchase NSW prawns from local seafood suppliers.

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