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Groups Call for Use of Virus to Rid Australia of Carp

14 January 2016

AUSTRALIA - A unique coalition of anglers, farmers and conservationists in Australia have declared that a virus that kills carp should be used to help rid the country's rivers of the destructive feral fish.

Some of the nation's biggest fishing, farming and green groups say governments now have a once in a generation opportunity to use "biological controls" for carp, and they should commit funds to that end, reports the SydneyMorningHerald.

Carp, an introduced species, is the bane of many fishermen and their presence is a major cause of the decline in native fish numbers in numerous freshwater ecosystems, in particular the Murray-Darling Basin.

By feeding on river bottoms, carp cloud water, harming native fish's ability to breed and feed and reducing river plant growth. Carp can also feed on young fish and compete with native species for habitat.

In recent years hopes have been raised that Australian carp numbers could be dramatically reduced by introducing a virus that originally emerged in Europe in the 1990s.

Allan Hansard, who heads the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, said if the virus was effective, inland waterways could be returned to conditions close to what they were before carp were brought to Australia.

The groups behind the push include the fishing foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, National Farmers' Federation, Invasive Species Council and the National Irrigators' Council.

CSIRO has been studying the virus – called Koi herpesvirus – at laboratories near Geelong since 2007. The head of the project at CSIRO, Dr Ken McColl, said it could kill up to 70 to 90 per cent of carp.

CSIRO has been testing to see whether releasing the virus would pose any threat to Australian fish species. So far the research had shown no ill effects, Dr McColl said.

Testing had also occurred on invertebrates, mammals and birds. Dr McColl said that in Europe, the virus had never spread to other species or humans.

Dr McColl said final testing was being completed this year on two fish types and, assuming that went well, he believed the virus would not pose risks to humans and other species if its release was given the go-ahead.

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