Australia to spend over $11mn to eradicate carps by releasing herpes virus into rivers

© David W Cerny
Australia will spend more than US$11 million in a bid to exterminate European carp by releasing a virulent strain of herpes into the country’s largest waterway.

As much as 15 million Australian dollars will be spent on funding the clearing of the Murray-Darling Basin from the country’s worst freshwater feral pest. This will be included into Tuesday’s federal budget, Australian authorities said on Sunday.

Interestingly enough, the war on fish is to be waged by an unusual means – the water will be contaminated with a special type of herpes, known as koi herpes.

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) scientists have been carrying out various tests for nearly a decade on other animals including chickens, mice, frogs, turtles and water dragons “to determine the safety and suitability” of the virus in dealing with an excessive carp population.

The virus was proven to be harmless to humans and animals, but it causes kidney failure in carps, attacks their skin and kills the fish after sitting tight in its system for about seven days.

“It causes high death rates in common carp and in the ornamental koi carp. No other species of fish, including goldfish, are known to be affected by the virus,” CSIRO official website says.

“It affects the European carp by attacking their kidneys, their skin, their gills and stopping them breathing effectively,” Australian Science Minister Christopher Pyne said, according to ABC news.

“They have the virus for a week before they show any symptoms and it suddenly kills them within 24 hours,” he added.

It’s been calculated that the carp-control program planned to be launched in 2018 will kill 95 percent of the targeted fish over the next 30 years.

The project can’t be brought to life right away since it is still to be determined how to deal with dead bodies most effectively. A significant part of the budgeting is to be spent specifically on a clean-up program.

“There’s obvious talk about whether the carp could be used for fertilizer, whether they could be used for pet food, whether they'll need to be buried in large graves and be allowed to dissipate back into the system,” Pyne noted.

Carps, that were described as the “rabbits of waterways” by Australia’s Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce for how quickly they breed and spread, have brought other populations of fish in the Murray River to the verge of extinction. Apart from that, every year Australia loses up to 500 million Australian dollars (more than US$ 380 million) due to the uncontrolled population of carps, he also said.