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Call to release the carp virus for river health

Respected river ecologist Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper is calling for release of the herpes virus to control carp number in the Murray Darling River system. Inset: Carp have decimated native fish populations in the Barwon-Darling since they arrived during the floods of 1974 and 1976. Photos TWH

Now is the time to release the carp herpes virus, according to one of Australia’s most respected river ecologists.

Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper says the herpes virus should be considered a “tool in the tool kit” for the battle to control carp in our rivers.

Following decades of studying Australia’s freshwater ecosystems, Dr Mallen-Cooper believes the science and research is strong enough to confidently release the virus.

He believes that a release will reduce carp numbers and provide a critical window for native fish to establish a more substantial presence.

Scientists believe that carp make up over 90 percent of the fish biomass in the Murray-Darling river system

Carp are known to have major negative impacts on water quality and the health of freshwater environments.

They have a devastating impact on biodiversity and have decimated native fish populations in many areas since they first became established as a major pest in the wild in the 1970s.

The feeding methods of carp can uproot aquatic vegetation and muddy the water.

Carp have been blamed for damaging freshwater habitats and causing decreases in light penetration, dissolved oxygen, and plant material.

Dr Mallen-Cooper warns that to maximise the benefits during the critical recovery phase, we need to be enhancing habitats, managing river flows better and restoring fish migrations.

“It is combining these actions with a virus release strategy, that are critical to bolster our native fish populations”, he says.

When the release of the carp herpes virus was first mooted, Dr Mallen-Cooper said he wasn’t sure about it.

“Now though, I think there has been so much amazing research on it,” he said. “Population modelling is showing the virus will knock down the carp population by 40 to 60 per cent. That would be totally amazing and would have a huge positive impact on rivers.’ {…]

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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