Carp orgies, herpes and the smell of rotten fish

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The National Carp Control Plan has been studying how to manage the dead carp. Image: carp.gov.au

ACCORDING to a recent article published by The Guardian, a report on infecting carp with the herpes virus is expected to be handed down by the end of this year – leaving the federal government to decide whether to go ahead with the controversial plan.

In 2016 the federal government announced its intention to infect carp with cyprinid herpesvirus 3, pledging $15 million in the budget. The herpes virus is specific to carp, and has been shown not to affect other species. When carp mate – often in large groups or “orgies” – the virus will spread quickly and kill them.

One of the biggest problems is cleaning up the expected rotting biomass. CSIRO research estimates there could be about 200,000 tonnes in south-eastern Australia, and warns the amount could reach as high as about 356,000 tonnes.

The National Carp Control Plan has been studying how to manage the dead carp so it doesn’t affect the water quality. They are looking at a range of methods including flushing out or drying out the biomass, removing the biomass with boats, nets, and other specifically engineered machinery, moving the biomass to “low-risk sites” and leaving it in situ “where there are no impacts”.

The assessment was due almost two years ago, but more scientific work was needed, and that work was dragged out by the pandemic. Now the department says it should be finished by the end of the year.

The Murray Darling Association is pushing for a wider range of solutions for the carp and believes there’s an untapped market demand for the fish.

Chief executive Emma Bradbury told The Guardian there were many options available, including bulk harvesting for human consumption, international export, or to make fertiliser or pet food.

“Our position on the release of the virus will be based on wherever the final science rests and that’s not in yet. We’re supportive of a range of proposals for the mitigation of carp,” Bradbury said.

“We know the carp in the system is doing significant damage. They are bottom feeders. They increase turbidity, they reduce the quality of the ecosystem. They’re absolutely disastrous.”

Source: The Guardian

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