A federal government plan to slash carp fish numbers in Australia’s waterways by infecting the pest-species with a herpes virus will be a one-hit wonder, University of Sydney experts are warning.
The warning published last week in Australian Zoologist comes as the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation investigates whether to go ahead with a planned release of the virus in an effort to help rebuild native fish numbers in Australia's waterways.
“The release of this herpes virus in our waterways will undoubtedly cause a single epidemic of herpesvirus disease resulting in massive deaths among carp,” said the study’s lead author Associate Professor Joy Becker of the University’s School of Life Environmental Sciences.
“However, there’s little evidence to suggest that we will see repeated outbreaks of a magnitude to counter the reproductive potential of the surviving carp.”
This conclusion is based on a review of evidence from around the world examining the impact of the koi herpesvirus (CyHV3) on common carp in natural and farmed environments.
Associate Professor Becker and her author-colleagues, Professor Michael Ward and Dr Paul Hick from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, say that the likelihood of carp population being controlled by releasing the virus is significantly reduced due to herd immunity and the carp’s “remarkable fecundity”.
They warn this means the government’s $15m culling program, which was announced in parliament by former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, could be a one-hit wonder.
The research team said their great concern is how quickly the CyHV3 virus reaches balance in host populations, which occurred within two years in a study in Japan.
Dr Becker, who is a member of the government’s National Carp Control Program Scientific Advisory Group, has communicated her advice to the NCCP and to colleagues at scientific meetings.