The Australian Government is embarking on a revolutionary, long-term plan to rid our waterways of one of the country’s most devastating pests—common carp.
On 1 May 2016, the government announced it is investing $15 million over two and half years to develop the National Carp Control Plan to undertake further research, approvals, and consultation to develop a comprehensive plan for a potential release of Cyprinid herpesvirus (carp herpesvirus) by the end of 2018.
How carp are hurting the country
Carp (Cyprinus carpio also referred to as European carp) are one of the worst introduced pest species in Australia. They have significant social, environmental and economic impacts.
Carp have major negative impact on water quality and the amenity value of our freshwater rivers and lakes. This affects all water users, including irrigators and regional communities. Carp also have a devastating impact on biodiversity, and have decimated native fish populations in many areas since they first became established as a major pest in the wild in the 1960s. Carp dominate the Murray Darling Basin, making up 80-90 per cent of the fish biomass.
The economic impact of carp has been estimated at up to $500 million per year.
Following years of testing, Australian scientists have determined that use of a biological control agent, the naturally occurring carp herpesvirus, could significantly reduce the number of carp in our freshwater systems.
National Carp Control Plan
Considerable work is required before a release of carp herpesvirus could occur, including further research into how to manage the release and clean up and ecological impacts, as well as legislative approvals and community consultation. The National Carp Control Plan will set out a considered approach to safely manage this very significant work.
In terms of its nature and scale, this proposal is unprecedented in Australia, and we will need to work across portfolios and governments, in partnership with communities, to ensure that we get it right.
A ministerial taskforce, led by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, will be established to bring together Australian Government ministers from the Environment, Industry, Innovation and Science and Infrastructure and Transport portfolios to oversee the development of the plan. The NSW Minister for Primary Industries will also join the taskforce, given the leading role that NSW continues to play in the technical and regulatory aspects of the carp herpesvirus proposal, and to represent state and territory governments.
A National Coordinator will work with stakeholders from across governments, industry, community and environmental groups, and research organisations to understand the issues and bring together a comprehensive plan, underpinned by research, risk assessment and a sound understanding of community views.
The plan will focus on maximising the reduction of carp populations while minimising disruption to industries, communities and the environment should a carp herpesvirus release go ahead.
Cyprinid herpesvirus (CyHV-3 or carp herpesvirus) is a naturally occurring strain of carp herpesvirus.
Years of rigorous testing has shown that carp herpesvirus is specific to common carp, and won’t cause disease in any other species of fish (including native Australian fish) or in other animals that are exposed to the virus, including humans.
Testing conducted by the CSIRO, through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre has found that under optimal conditions carp herpesvirus will kill up to 95 per cent of individual carp.
However, use of the carp herpesvirus will not totally eradicate carp. Whenever a virus is used as a biological control agent, the virus kills large numbers of the target for the first couple of years. But gradually, over time, some resistance builds up. However, numbers never recover to their original levels. Additional tools will be required to complement the virus and to control residual carp populations over the longer term.
The CSIRO has been very involved with the scientific testing of this virus. More information about the carp herpesvirus can be found on the CSIRO’s website.
Extensive consultation with affected communities and waterway users will be undertaken as part of the plan. Australians will be given an opportunity to have their say on the proposal or put forward ideas as planning and legislative approvals progress.
Find out more
More information will be published on this website as it becomes available.