Demand for WA prawns on the rise after national restrictions put in place

Demand for WA prawns on the rise after national restrictions put in place

Restrictions on the importation of uncooked prawns from overseas and parts of Queensland has led to a rise in demand and cost for WA prawns, according to two seafood wholesalers.

The Federal Government suspended overseas imports of uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat last month for six months due to the risk of white spot disease and inability to meet sanitary protection levels.

According to the WA Department of Fisheries, white spot disease (WSD) is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans but does not pose a threat to humans or food safety, which was also detected on four prawn farms south of Mooloolaba, Queensland.

WA Department of Fisheries has imposed a restriction on live or uncooked prawns and polychaete worms from areas that have tested positive for the disease.

Catalano’s Seafood retail manager Mark Lupica, said they did not import farmed prawns from Queensland but the supply of WA and South Australian prawns would be tight because of the ban.

“The prawn prices are on the rise already due to a poor catch prior to Christmas,” he said.

“The next prawn season in Australia starts in May, so due to the loss of farmed prawns for other suppliers, they have now targeted local prawns, which has diminished supply until the new season.

“Luckily we have a fair bit of stock from last season still, so hopefully it will last us and our customers until the new season.”

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Global Seafoods managing director Kim Ryland said the restrictions had affected consumers and raw prawn retailers and wholesalers in Australia.

“The price of raw prawns has already increased by 10 to 30 per cent as a direct result of the new restrictions; cooked prawn prices have not increased,” he said.

“Global Seafoods will cope with the restrictions without too much problem as we do not reply too heavily on raw prawns and we have a diverse range of products and customers.”

WA Department of Fisheries marine biosecurity senior management officer Marion Massam said the risk of WSD was considered to be low in WA due to the State restrictions and Federal Government suspension.

“The threat is very serious, as WSD is highly contagious and if it entered WA waters, could impact many different valuable commercial and recreational fisheries such as prawns, crabs, shrimp, marron and other crustaceans, as well as aquaculture ventures,” she said.

Ms Massam said the restrictions were expected to stay in place for the next few months while the WSD outbreak response continued.