Latin names: Fenneropenaeus merguiensis, Penaeus monodon, Marsupenaeus japonicas, Penaeus vanname, P. monodon

Common names: Prawn, Vannamei, Pacific White, Whiteleg & Black Tiger Prawns, Shrimp

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Key Facts

  • Prawns farmed in Australia are produced on land in tanks and ponds.
  • An outbreak of whitespot disease, possibly from raw imported prawns, has closed down some production in southeast QLD, and biosecurity measures are in place.
  • Wastewater is treated before being discharged. Australian prawn farm effluent is well regulated and has minimal impact on coastal ecosystems.
  • Research and development into prawn feed has resulted in significantly reduced dependence on wild caught fish.
  • Fish-free prawn feed is currently in use in Australia, with nutritional elements coming from marine microbes.

Cooking & Recipes


Firm, sweet, meaty and packed full of flavour – there’s a reason that Aussies love prawns! If you want to peel whole prawns for a salad or seafood cocktail, a quick steam or boil (2-3 minutes) is all that they require. Whole prawns can also be split down the centre to grill on the barbecue. Peeled prawns are great pan-fried, stir-fried, or dropped into a soup, stew or curry. Just be sure to add them at the last minute to avoid overcooking them.

More information

  • QLD, NSW

Prawns farmed in Australia are produced on land in ponds and tanks, with the majority of farms located on the QLD coast adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. QLD produces over 90% of the total volume of prawns farmed in Australia.

An outbreak of whitespot disease, possibly from raw prawns imported into Australia, significantly reduced production of farmed prawns in southeast QLD. Ponds were de-stocked and fallowed under biosecurity measures in place over 2017-18. The disease does not pose any human health or food-safety concerns.

In general, prawn farms are small operations with good management and regulation of wastewater discharge. Studies show negligible impacts from prawn farm effluent on the surrounding environment. Many of the prawn farms are sited on areas that were previously sugar cane farms. Expansion of prawn farming is underway, particularly in the Northern Territory, where the largest prawn farm in Australia is being proposed. Management of waste water will be a significant issue to address.

As an omnivorous group of species, farmed prawns were previously dependent on the fishmeal and fish oil in fish feed produced from wild caught fish. Significant research and development in prawn feeds has reduced industry dependence on wild caught fish, to a point where the amount of wild-capture fish used by the Australian prawn farm sector to feed prawns is less than the weight of prawns produced. Feed is currently available and in use in Australia that is completely free of wild caught fish, and instead depends on nutrition derived from protein from marine microbes.

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Imported, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Malaysia

Key Facts

  • Prawns are mainly farmed in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • Vast areas of coastal habitat have been destroyed to create prawn farms, including extensive mangrove habitats, which are key nursery areas for fish and provide coastal buffering against storms.
  • Effluent management is generally poor, resulting in high nutrient pollution and disease transfer from prawn farms to wild native prawn populations.
  • The commonly farmed whiteleg prawn is not native to Asia, and escapees from farms have displaced native prawns in the wild.

More information

  • Thailand, China, Vietnam & Malaysia (31,919t of prawns imported in 2015-16)

Prawns are mainly farmed in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Vast areas of these countries have been developed into prawn farms, which has resulted in widespread destruction of mangroves and coastal areas. Mangroves act as nurseries for fish and shelter coastal areas from storms. In Thailand between 1961 and 1997, over 30% of mangrove forests were destroyed and replaced by prawn farms. In Vietnam this impact is even greater, with 50% of mangrove forests converted into farms over the past 40 years.

Effluent management from prawn farms is generally poor, resulting in nutrient pollution of surrounding areas that can alter natural ecosystem function; for example, in some cases naturally occurring species can no longer survive in these areas due to altered environmental conditions. Farms are generally situated in coastal areas and where wastewater is discharged untreated. Diseases that originate within prawn farms can spread easily into wild prawn populations.

In addition, prawns are able to escape from farms and live in the wild. The commonly farmed whiteleg prawn is not native to Asia, but large numbers have escaped from farms into waterways in Thailand, which has displaced native prawn species.