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Tuesday’s federal budget will include funding for a $15m for a national carp control plan in an attempt to eradicate Australia’s worst freshwater feral pest, the government announced on Sunday.
The plan includes the staged release of the carp-specific herpes virus in the Murray-Darling basin. CSIRO scientists have been testing the virus in Australian native fish species and other animals found along the river for the past seven years and have established that it is safe to release into the ecosystem without harming other species.
The virus affects the carp’s skin and kidneys, takes about seven days to have a noticeable effect and, once it takes hold, usually kills the fish within 24 hours.
A joint ministerial taskforce will finalise the national plan and includes the minister for industry, innovation and science, Christopher Pyne, the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, and the minister for the environment, Greg Hunt.
“The common carp is a nasty pest in our waterways and makes up 80% of fish biomass in the Murray Darling Basin,” Pyne said.
“Anyone who loves the Murray knows what damage the carp have caused to the river environment over many years. The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and the CSIRO have made significant progress evaluating a viral biological control agent, we know that it works, we know it’s completely safe, now we need to plan the best way to roll it out.”
Joyce said the economic impact of carp was estimated at $500m a year, mostly in regional Australia, and especially along the Murray River.