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Irrigators and fishers call for Carp action

CEO of NSW Irrigators Council, Claire Miller, is calling for action on eradication of carp from our rivers. Photo Twh

Tricia Duffield

Irrigators are urging the government to speed up a decision on whether to release a virus into the river system to control the massive numbers of carp in the waterways.

NSW Irrigators CEO Claire Miller said there was a ‘desperate urgency’ for something to be done to control carp numbers which were now in plague proportions.

Meanwhile, there is doubt on research which recently claimed there were less than a handful of cod in the Darling River between Bourke and Menindee.

Ms Miller said without urgent carp control measures, there was no point in recovering water for the environment from farmers when the huge numbers of carp were causing widescale damage to river habitats and native fish species.

“The scale of the problem is huge, with carp already making up 80 - 90 per cent of the fish biomass in rivers across the basin, with every river, including the Barwon-Darling, heavily infested,” she said.

“During the drought many fish species suffered, and the carp died off, but when good conditions return, the carp breed up more than anything else.

“They are now in plague proportions, taking advantage of the good flows in recent months.

“Carp out-compete native species in sheer numbers and damage the natural habitat and the food chain of our native species and that’s a real problem.

“There are several options, including a carp virus, and a desperate urgency for resources to speed up the decision on whether to release that virus into the waterways.

“There are other control measures such as netting, but we would like to see the same kind of urgency that we always see on the table for getting more water from farmers.

“there should be the same urgency into fixing degradation drivers like carp.

“If nothing is done, we will have rivers full of invasive, introduced species which damage water quality and habitat. All the billions of dollars spent on the Murray Darling Basin Plan recovering more water for the environment will just be tinkering around the edges unless we address some of these fundamental issues,” Ms Miller said.

Meanwhile, claims that cod were in desperately low numbers in the Darling River have been questioned by recreational fishers.

Researchers from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office Monitoring, Evaluation and Research program said data showed Murray Cod may have disappeared from reaches of the river between Bourke and Louth. They say the species is at a crossroads, with numbers too low to recover naturally in the area.

Water monitoring in the area between 2019 and 2021 recorded only six Murray cod and there were none in last year’s survey.

But anecdotally, recreational fishers say that is not what they are seeing.

Wayne Cole runs a kayak fishing business based in Bathurst and was in Bourke recently on a tour of the region, providing fishing equipment and modified kayaks for fishers.

Two years ago, he paddled down the Darling River from Walgett to Bourke, raising money for the Black Dog Institute.

“Just a few years back during the drought we were delivering water out west and now there is so much life and so many native fish like yellowbelly,” he said.

“There is debate on the numbers of Murray cod between Bourke and Louth, but I want to know who does these surveys?

“I don’t know how they can say only three to six cod were detected because the river is more alive than what they think.

“They should focus on the reduction of carp before they worry about the lack of cod,” Mr Cole said.


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