Given their tendency to be prolific breeders, the feral carp is the river rabbit of our Australian waterways.
This highly invasive feral fish is a stunningly successful foreign intruder. An ecological vandal. A curse upon our once pristine aquatic ecosystems. With a single female producing over 1.5 million eggs, it is little wonder they dominate our inland waterways.
When carp were introduced to Australia in 1859, little thought was given to a future where this exotic species would dominate over 90 percent of fish biomass in the Murray–Darling Basin.
Carp act much like a vacuum cleaner, causing significant environmental damage through their fish feeding frenzy. With hundreds of thousands of carp each grabbing big mouthfuls of invertebrates and spitting out the muddy debris, water quality in our river systems deteriorates. Precious sunlight is blocked. Our rivers are murky, cloudy biodiversity wastelands. The native aquatic vegetation changes, the aquatic bugs change, the fish change.
But Carpageddon looms on the horizon in the form of a biological control agent.
The National Carp Control Plan is exploring the possible release of a carp virus into our aquatic ecosystems. This carp virus is found in 33 countries and has been subject to intensive research, experiments and testing in Australia over the last decade. CSIRO scientists are extremely confident the carp virus is species specific and doesn’t cause disease in other fish, animals or humans.
The virus is transmitted when an infected carp simply bumps another carp. In crowded carp populations environmental stress activates the virus, causing it to spread rapidly. Being a species-specific virus, this control agent has the exciting potential to reduce carp domination through an integrated control program.
The virus will not be released without the necessary approvals. Release is also contingent on a comprehensive management plan that, among other things, will look at the means and methods to clean up so many dead carp.
The plan will be subject to extensive national public consultation.
You are cordially invited to attend a community information session about the plan on February 19. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the critical research underpinning this exciting project and give your local insights into the issues that need to be considered in rolling out any program into Australian, and the bush capital’s, waterways.
If a decision is made to proceed with the virus release, it is expected to happen in late 2019. For more information please visit https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/fish.
What: National Carp Control Plan
Where: Ainslie Football Club, Wakefield Avenue, Ainslie.
When: 6–8pm, Monday, February 19
- Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.