A $15 MILLION plan to use a strain of the herpes virus to rid carp from waterways in New England and nationwide within 30 years was announced in Tamworth yesterday.
Carp in rivers, dams and streams in the region will be targeted as part of a federal government project that has received funding in tomorrow’s budget, with the aim of releasing a carp-specific herpes virus in 2018.
New England MP and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said, in Tamworth yesterday, it was the only time he was happy to talk about herpes.
Mr Joyce described carp as the “rabbit of our waterways” and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to manage the pests.
In Japan, carp herpes has had a 70 per cent kill rate and Mr Joyce said they hoped for similar outcomes in Australia, where carp are pests that muddy the water and decimate native fish populations.
“They are ecosystem vandals – they muddy river systems, uproot vegetation, cause erosion, contribute to algal blooms, and out-compete native fish for food, driving many species to the brink of extinction,” Mr Joyce said.
There will be a two-year planning and consultancy period before the release of the virus, which is most commonly transmitted by direct contact between fish. Carp can also be infected by the virus being in the water.
“As much as people may want the virus released immediately, we need to ensure it is safe, along with developing strategies around the clean-up program and use of harvested carp biomass – with carp biomass in our waterways estimated at between 500,000 tonnes and 2 million tonnes,” Mr Joyce said.
“There is very strong support for this initiative across diverse stakeholder groups, including irrigators, recreational fishing organisations and conservation groups.”
Fishcare North West volunteer and The Pub Angling Club secretary Anne Michie said it was great Mr Joyce was taking the issue so seriously.
“The invasive species is such a threat and we might finally have an answer to cut this right back,” she said.
“We just ran the Carp We Don’t Keep It Comp at Easter and caught one tonne out of Lake Keepit in just a day-and-a-half. It makes your head spin to think what sort of biomass of fish there would be in our waterways – it’s estimated that 80 to 90 per cent of biomass of fish in the Murray-Darling is carp.”
Catching them to eat is not a popular option in Australia.
“In Australia, the carp aren’t a table fish like they are in Europe, because our rivers have a lot higher silt content, which makes the flesh such a different flavour here,” Ms Michie said.
“They can survive in water conditions that our native fish can’t. Landcare and a few other groups are rehabilitating the riverbanks where carp have caused erosion, and I think our natives are holding their own now – I don’t think they’re decreasing the way they were.”
Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation managing director Allan Hansard said the National Carp Plan was an essential first step in addressing Australia’s worst established freshwater aquatic pest.
“Our inland waterways are the lifeblood of our food bowl, hundreds of communities and our inland environment,” he said.
“It would be great to see our inland rivers again running clearer and abounding with native fish species. This is something Australians have not seen for generations and this would be a great environmental legacy for future generations.”
Recreational fishers expect to be involved in the clean-up after the virus is introduced.
- This story first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader