Australia to Spend $15 Million to Eradicate Carp With the Herpes Virus

By Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno
May 2, 2016 Updated: May 2, 2016

The Australian government announced on May 1 it will allocate $15 million to develop a national carp control plan, a major pest in the country’s rivers since the 1960s.

A virulent strain of herpes virus will be released into the Murray-Darling river system in an effort to eradicate European carp according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC).

Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) say the plan will focus on reducing the carp population, while minimizing disruption to industries, communities, and the environment.

While calling it a “carp-aggedon,” Science Minister Christopher Pyne said the herpes strain cyprinid herpesvirus-3 would be released in 2018.

The CSIRO said tests of the virus in the high-security Fish Diseases Laboratory at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory have shown that the same virus kills Australian carp, and fast.

Carp are widely believed to have detrimental effects on native aquatic plants, animals, and general river health, particularly through their destructive feeding habits, according to Australia’s fishing and agriculture site.

WENTWORTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 21: A view of the Murray - Darling Junction, as reports suggest that inflow to the Murray-Darling Basin are at an all time low, now 60 percent lower than the previous minimum, on February 21, 2007 in Wentworth, Australia. Located in the south-east of Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin covers 1,061,469 square kilometres, comprising about 14 per cent of the continental landmass. Some seventy percent of the river's water is used for irrigation. In the midst of the worst drought on record, the federal government, along with, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and South Australia are examining ways to secure water supplies and to adjust the operations of their river systems to maximize flexibility and minimize losses from the system.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
A view of the Murray – Darling Junction on February 21, 2007, in Wentworth, Australia. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Scientists believe the herpes virus will have the greatest impact in the first couple of years following its release.

“We’re looking at more than 500,000 tons of carp that will be killed, up to 2,000,000 ton of carp,” said Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce, who described the fish as “rabbits of our waterways.”

“We’ve seen in lakes, in Japan, lakes that are multiple times the size of Sydney Harbour, we’ve lost 70 percent of the European carp in two weeks,” Joyce told ABC.

He said damage caused by the fish costs an estimated $500 million per year.

The CSIRO says the virus appears to be transmitted by direct contact between fish, but they can also be infected by virus in the water.

Scientists say the virus mainly damages the kidneys, skin, and gills of carp. After the fish is infected, the virus multiplies in the fish for about 7 days. It then takes about 24 hours from the first signs of the virus for the fish to die.

The CSIRO says the virus alone will not completely wipe out carp, since there will always be some survivors.

They said there is no evidence of the virus affecting people working in carp farms. A report to the European Commission by the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare said there is no evidence that any fish virus causes disease in humans.

The Australian government estimates the project will kill 95 percent of carp in the river system over the next 30 years, according to ABC.

Denisse Moreno
Denisse Moreno