White Spot

About White Spot

White Spot is highly contagious to prawns and can cause high rates of mortality in affected stock. Other crustaceans can be carriers of White Spot, but they are rarely impacted. White Spot poses no threat to human health or food safety.

White Spot spread through Asian prawn farming regions rapidly in the 1990s and established in farmed prawn in the Americas - causing widespread losses.

Farmed Black Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon) under investigation for suspected White Spot

What are the characteristics of White Spot?

Signs of White Spot in aquaculture within tanks and ponds include:

  • rapid onset of mass mortality (80% or more) in farmed penaeid prawns during the grow out period
  • lethargy
  • cessation of feeding
  • aggregations of moribund prawns near the water surface at the edge of the rearing pond or tank

Prawns may display:

  • a loose carapace
  • high degrees of colour variation, with a predominance of darkened (red-brown or pink) body surface and appendages
  • white calcium deposits embedded in the shell, causing white spots 0.5 – 3.0 mm in diameter

For further information on the characteristics of White Spot see:

Consumer safety

Prawns are safe to eat as White Spot does NOT pose any threat to human health or food safety.

History of White Spot in Australia

In December 2016 White Spot was detected in farmed prawns in south-east Queensland. For details see www.outbreak.gov.au.

In August 2022 White Spot was detected in an enclosed facility at a prawn farm in northern NSW. NSW DPI acted quickly to issue formal biosecurity measures and worked closely with the farm to contain the detection within the facility. All prawns within the facility were destroyed and the facility was decontaminated. NSW DPI undertook surveillance of wild prawns in the estuarine area and offshore from the facility with no evidence of White Spot found. NSW has reaffirmed freedom from White Spot.

What is the NSW Government doing to protect NSW aquaculture and wild stocks from White Spot?

NSW DPI continues to work with other states, territories and the Australian Government to help minimise the risk of White Spot spreading.

NSW DPI has established a Control Order (PDF, 1575.22 KB) that places restrictions on the importation into NSW of any uncooked decapod crustaceans or polychaete worms from a designated area encompassing all affected areas in south-east Queensland. DPI has conducted annual surveillance of wild prawn populations in northern NSW since the outbreak in Queensland, with no evidence of White Spot in any of those samples tested.

White Spot is declared as Prohibited Matter under Schedule 2 of the Biosecurity Act 2015. This includes a duty to report the presence or suspected presence of White Spot at any place to NSW DPI and strictly prohibits any dealings with this biosecurity matter or associated carriers.

What you can do to help prevent the spread of White Spot

  • never use prawns intended for human consumption as bait. When fishing, always source your bait from a trusted bait supplier, for example, from a tackle shop
  • it is illegal to bring bait caught in south east Queensland to NSW, source your bait from a trusted supplier local to the area you intend to fish
  • dispose of your prawn waste (heads or shells) in general waste, never to our waterways
  • make ‘clean’ part of your routine, wash your vehicles and gear between waterways
  • if you catch your own bait, use it only in the water from where it came
  • if you are a recreational fisher, see -  important information for recreational fishers - use of prawns as bait
  • follow your permit conditions, including those relating to biosecurity
  • report any unusual mortalities or suspicions of White Spot to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 or a local Fisheries Officer as soon as possible, and within 24 hours
  • if you haven’t already done so, prepare a Biosecurity Plan, both to minimise the risks of aquatic disease entering your property and of it spreading if it does enter
  • use separate equipment for different ponds or tanks throughout your property if possible
  • disinfect and decontaminate equipment between use in different areas of your farm
  • keep good records of stock movements, for both incoming and outgoing stock and for movements to different areas within the farm
  • minimise unnecessary visitors to your production areas of your farm and find out where delivery trucks and other visitors have previously visited before accepting them on site
  • be aware of the NSW Control Order (PDF, 1575.22 KB) currently in place on uncooked prawns, decapod crustaceans (including lobsters, crabs, slipper lobsters, Moreton Bay bugs) and polychaete worms (including beach worms) originating from within an area between Caloundra and Tweed Heads in south-east Queensland.
  • ensure that you are not importing uncooked prawns, decapod crustaceans, or polychaete worms (for bait or human consumption) into NSW from within the affected area south-east Queensland, unless they have been treated in accordance with the NSW Control Order (PDF, 1575.22 KB)
  • uncooked decapod crustaceans destined for human consumption only (not bait) can move through the closure area and into NSW if they have originated from outside the closure area, the packaging remains secure, the grower and packer details are clearly displayed and they are transported directly to a point of sale in NSW for human consumption.
  • please note there are no movement restrictions on cooked decapod crustaceans that are securely packaged and transported directly to a point of sale in NSW. While cooking prawns inactivates White Spot, freezing prawns does NOT inactivate White Spot.
  • the current NSW Control Order (PDF, 1575.22 KB) prohibits movement into NSW of uncooked prawns, decapod crustaceans (including lobsters, crabs, slipper lobsters, Moreton Bay bugs) and polychaete worms (marine worms) originating from an area between Caloundra and Tweed Heads in south east Queensland. Uncooked decapod crustaceans destined for human consumption can move through the closure area and into NSW if they have originated from outside the closure area, the packaging remains secure, the grower and packer details are clearly displayed and they are transported directly to a point of sale in NSW for human consumption. For the full extent of the restrictions please see the NSW Control Order (PDF, 1575.22 KB).
  • fittings used in the restricted area in connection with cultivation or commercial catch of live or dead decapod crustaceans or polychaete worms are also prohibited from entry into NSW unless they are cleaned in accordance with a protocol approved by the NSW Chief Veterinary Officer.
  • if trading interstate, check with the appropriate state for their restrictions as they differ from state to state.
  • there is no movement restriction on cooked decapod crustaceans that are securely packaged and transported directly to a point of sale in NSW for human consumption
    to minimise risk of spreading disease ensure you adopt good biosecurity practices when travelling through the affected areas.
  • report any signs of White Spot to 1800 675 888
  • updates can be found at www.outbreak.gov.au

Interstate Trade restrictions

Other states have imposed different trade restrictions on uncooked prawns, decapod crustaceans and polychaete worms. Please check the relevant fisheries website - see www.outbreak.gov.au for more information.

Report any signs of unusual mortality or other suspicions of White Spot

If you suspect White Spot, call the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Hotline: 1800 675 888

FAQs

White Spot affects decapod crustaceans including prawns, crabs and lobsters. It is highly contagious to prawns and can cause high rates of mortality in affected prawn stock. White Spot is mainly a problem in farmed prawns and can be carried by other crustacean species.

It was the cause of significant mortality in prawn farms in south-east Queensland in 2016. It was detected and eradicated from an enclosed prawn facility in NSW in August 2022.

The detection was initially discovered within an enclosed facility at a prawn farm in northern NSW via routine testing and was confirmed by laboratory analysis on 23 August 2022.

Prior to this detection, White Spot had never been detected in NSW.

Since 2016, DPI has been conducting routine surveillance in NSW with no evidence of White Spot.

Recent surveillance completed on 7 September 2022 has found no evidence of White Spot in NSW wild prawn populations.

NSW has reaffirmed its freedom from White Spot status.

Tracing and surveillance activities have been undertaken to identify the source of the White Spot and how it got into NSW. This work is ongoing.

DPI has responded swiftly and has worked closely with the affected business, seafood industry and other state and federal jurisdictions to ensure rapid containment and management of the 23 August 2022 detection.

NSW DPI Authorised Officers have worked closely with the owners of the prawn facility and have overseen the destruction and disposal of all affected prawns in the facility. Decontamination activities were completed by 2 September 2022, to treat the site and stop any further spread.

NSW DPI is now working with the NSW prawn industry to improve biosecurity planning and preparedness.

The NSW Government has had movement restrictions in place to limit the risk of White Spot entering our state since it was first detected in Queensland.

Protocols are in place for prawn production facilities in NSW which allow for early detection, containment and eradication of aquatic health issues.

NSW DPI has completed surveillance of wild prawn populations in the estuarine and offshore areas of northern NSW where White Spot was detected and eradicated from a prawn facility.

There was no evidence of White Spot in any of these prawns.

White Spot could cause major impacts on the prawn farming community and associated industries on which many people rely to make a living.

This is why NSW DPI has worked closely with the business, industry and our state and federal counterparts in order to contain and manage this detection. Tracing and surveillance have been completed. There has been no evidence of White Spot in wild prawns sampled from estuarine and offshore waters nearby the facility and NSW has reaffirmed freedom from White Spot.

The early detection was possible due to the robust protocols in place for NSW prawn producing hatcheries.

Prawns may display:

  • a loose carapace
  • high degrees of colour variation, with a predominance of darkened (red-brown or pink) body surface and appendages
  • white calcium deposits embedded in the shell, causing white spots 0.5 – 3.0 mm in diameter

Biosecurity is a shared responsibility and everybody plays a part in safeguarding Australia’s and NSW’s biosecurity, protecting our economy, environment and community and our reputation as a clean and safe producer of healthy seafood.

Any questions about or suspicions of White Spot should be directed to the Emergency Animal Disease 24-hour Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Further information about White Spot can be found on the NSW DPI website at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/white-spot or the Australian Government outbreak.gov.au website