Table of contents

Informing the plan

A researcher presents on their preliminary work at an NCCP science workshop in Canberra, ACT.
A researcher presents on their preliminary work at an NCCP science workshop in Canberra, ACT.

 

The National Carp Control Plan will provide recommendations about the feasibility of and operational advice for implementation of the carp virus as a means of biocontrol for carp in Australia. The plan will use the best available science to develop a smart, safe approach to controlling carp impacts by working with and incorporating feedback from the key affected stakeholders.

The focus of the NCCP is biological control using a species-specific virus (the carp virus). While previous research provides important information about this virus, it was only the first part of the puzzle, and more research was required before recommendation could be made on whether the virus could and should be used as a biological control agent to control carp in Australia. 

No decision has been made on the carp virus – the NCCP is a process, not a foregone conclusion. The carp virus (Cyprinid herpesvirus-3: CyHV-3, sometimes referred to overseas as KHV) has not been released in Australia. The NCCP will be used to inform a decision by governments about whether to proceed with additional research, legislate approvals, engagement and planning.

Proposing to introduce any biocontrol agent into Australia raises issues and concerns for some people, including some scientists and natural resource managers. The research sought to understand the carp virus efficacy and the risks and potential benefits of using the carp virus in Australian conditions. 

These questions were explored by investing in research about the environment, the community and to inform possible release.

Under the NCCP, research projects were delivered by universities, CSIRO and other experts. These projects were overseen by a separate panel of scientists called the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG), who provided advice to assist in prioritising, managing and reviewing critical research . Research under the NCCP also underwent further external peer review to ensure quality.

The three other expert groups worked to ensure that recommendations made under the plan are based on the best available science and community consultation, compliant with relevant legislation and operationally achievable (i.e. practical in the real world).

Dr Sanjina Upadhyay from the University of Adelaide processes water samples near Berri, S.A.
Dr Sanjina Upadhyay from the University of Adelaide processes water samples near Berri, S.A.

 

Previous research into carp control 

Over the past few decades, research on carp biology, impacts, and control tools and strategies has primarily been undertaken and coordinated by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, and the preceding Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre.

There is a range of methods for controlling carp that people have trialed, including traps, nets, electrofishing, angling, genetic engineering and chemicals. Unfortunately, these methods only work in small areas and for short periods. Until recently, a feasible method for tackling carp on a large scale over long periods in connected waterways hadn’t been identified.

However, in 2006, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (now the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness) began assessing the carp virus’ potential as a biocontrol agent. This work involved testing a series of native Australian fishes, rainbow trout and model species of reptiles, crustaceans, amphibians, birds and mammals for susceptibility to disease caused by carp herpesvirus (McColl et al., 2016).

The results showed carp herpesvirus is a potentially-viable and effective biological control agent for carp in Australia. It is species-specific and could potentially control carp across their range. However, as with previous viral biocontrol agents (e.g. rabbits), optimal carp population reductions would be obtained by deploying the carp virus in conjunction with other control measures (McColl et al., 2016a), most promisingly including a sex-biasing construct (Thresher et al., 2014) and manual removal.

While the focus of the NCCP was to investigate the feasibility of using the carp virus as a biocontrol method, the importance of considering it as the foundation of a suite of control measures is acknowledged.
 

A team from the Arthur Rylah Institute used electrofishing to remove carp downstream from Yarrawonga Weir, May 2017. Images: Tom Rayner.
A team from the Arthur Rylah Institute used electrofishing to remove carp downstream from Yarrawonga Weir, May 2017. Images: Tom Rayner.

 

The results showed carp herpesvirus is a potentially-viable and effective biological control agent for carp in Australia. It is species-specific and could potentially control carp across their range. However, as with previous viral biocontrol agents (e.g. rabbits), optimal carp population reductions would be obtained by deploying the carp virus in conjunction with other control measures (McColl et al., 2016a), most promisingly including a sex-biasing construct (Thresher et al., 2014) and manual removal.

While the focus of the NCCP was to investigate the feasibility of using the carp virus as a biocontrol method, the importance of considering it as the foundation of a suite of control measures is acknowledged.

Check out the reading list for more information.

 

Research topic summaries

The following issues papers are a summary of the research that underpins the NCCP. 

 

Related projects

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