The Australian Government is investigating a long-term biological control plan to reduce the impacts on our waterways of one of the country’s most devastating pests - common carp.
How carp are hurting the country
Carp (Cyprinus carpio also referred to as common carp) are one of the worst introduced pest species in Australia. They have significant social, environmental and economic impacts.
Carp have major negative impacts on water quality and the amenity value of our freshwater environments. 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 to 80-90 per cent of fish biomass.
National Carp Control Plan
On 1 May 2016, the government announced $15.2 million in funding for the development and potential implementation of the National Carp Control Plan (the plan). The plan, is being developed by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), to determine the feasibility of using Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (carp virus) as a biological control agent for common carp in Australia while minimising any impacts to industries, communities and the environment should a carp virus release go ahead.
In January 2020, FRDC delivered its initial assessment of the feasibility of using the carp virus as a biological control agent for common carp in Australia to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Noting that additional pieces of research were still underway, the department and FRDC decided that integrating key research results into a single document would best support consideration of the carp virus’ potential as a biological control agent by governments, stakeholders and the broader public.
Ongoing research, designed to augment and cross-check previous scientific work, has experienced a number of delays due to Covid-19. It is now expected that this research will be integrated into the plan and provided to the Australian Government in 2022. The plan will then be considered by all Australian governments, prior to being publicly released.
This work will enable Australian and state and territory governments to consider a first step decision on whether or not to proceed further towards a potential release of the carp virus.
However, considerable work is required before any potential release of the carp virus could occur. The plan will be one of a number of inputs, with additional work needed across a range of areas, including:
- consulting publicly on the plan;
- working through legislative approvals processes, primarily the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Biological Control Act 1984, Biosecurity Act 2015 and under various state and territory legislation;
- implementation planning;
- additional research into the production of the carp virus for approval under the Agriculture and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994.
In terms of its nature and scale, this proposal is unprecedented in Australia. It is necessary to take the time to complete a comprehensive and rigorous assessment.
The carp virus is a naturally occurring strain of carp herpesvirus, which has been found in over 30 countries around the world.
Extensive evidence, including testing of Australian species by CSIRO, indicates that the carp virus is specific to common carp, and doesn't cause disease in 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 former Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, has found that under optimal conditions the carp virus will kill up to 95 per cent of infected carp.
FRDC has undertaken extensive consultation during the development of the plan. Australians will be given an opportunity to have their say on the proposal through a formal consultation process should governments decide to proceed further toward a potential release of the carp virus.
Find out more
More information can be found at www.carp.gov.au.