News and Views

International interest in carp control

National Carp Control Plan Coordinator Matt Barwick welcomes recent international interest shown in Australia’s National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) which discusses the risks associated with using biological controls.

The publication of a letter in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution highlights international interest in both biological controls generally, and the Australian Government’s $15 million National Carp Control Plan in particular.

Mr Barwick said over 2017 to 2019, the NCCP will coordinate the research, risk assessment, and community consultation necessary to determine whether the virus called Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (‘the carp virus’) provides a safe and effective biological control agent for carp in Australia.

“It is absolutely vital that we understand and can manage risks associated with the possible release of a virus into our waterways,” he said.

“The issues discussed in the journal are already being addressed under the National Carp Control Plan. There is nothing new here. In fact, the points raised reinforce those that are being voiced at community forums around the country by fishers, farmers and members of the community and is the focus of our Strategic Research Plan.

“No-one is shying away from the fact that there will literally be a big stink if the virus is successfully introduced. If the virus didn’t kill large numbers of carp, then it wouldn’t be successful!

“Effective strategies for managing carp biomass levels post-release will be a key area of focus under the NCCP. Research underway and proposed will help improve current estimates of carp biomass levels in Australia, better understand how ecosystems and water quality may respond, and identify efficient and effective methods for harvesting carp biomass

“We are now building on the virus research undertaken since 2007 by the CSIRO and Invasive Animals CRC.

“A multi-disciplinary Science Advisory Group has been formed to map key knowledge gaps, and help ensure that our investment in research over 2017 and 2018 answers the important questions Australian’s and the international community have.

“There will be a full risk assessment prior to any release using globally leading risk analytical approaches which will take into account all the concerns raised in the article.

“Over 2017 to 2019 we will be conducting a comprehensive and robust research program, coupled with numerous assessments under environmental and biosecurity legislation to ensure that decision making is evidence based.

“We will also continue to communicate regularly with communities and interested people across the country to ensure that planning for a potential release is grounded in reality and takes into account diverse perspectives.

“There will be no release of the virus by government agencies until this work has been completed,” Mr Barwick said.

Mr Barwick said the NCCP is not simply about killing carp. It is an environmental program to ensure our native fish, birds and aquatic environments can be improved.

“It is about ensuring that the $13 billion dollars being spent in the Murray Darling Basin to improve environmental outcomes does just that.

“We know that water in the floodplain can create the perfect conditions for carp spawning and right now we are seeing alarming number of juvenile carp in response to recent flooding in the Murray-Darling Basin. Whilst we are seeing improvements in environmental outcomes in the basin, high carp densities continue to impede ecosystem recovery,” Mr Barwick said.

“The recent floods in the Murray Darling Basin has been a mixed blessing for the basin, also stimulating one of the biggest carp spawning events in recent times. People are telling us they are seeing carp in unprecedented numbers,” Mr Barwick concluded.

Image credit: Matt Barwick the NCCP Coordinator

Footage credit: Barren Box Swamp, Griffith, NSW, Hayden Cudmore

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