Australia considers using herpes to fight carp pest

Fish (File)
Fish (File)

The Australian government has proposed that they will control a carp species decimating native fish by distributing a lethal herpes virus.

However, it is now thought that this plan may lead to further ecological problems in Australian waters.

Robbie Walsh from the University of Adelaide said that using the virus will lead to millions of tonnes of dead carp piling up in Australian rivers.

The consequence of this is that rather than helping native fish species repopulate, the decomposing pile-up may prevent them from breathing and cause them to die.

The original proposal was for a strain of herpes, which specifically affects carp species, to be introduced into the Murray-Darling river system by 2018. The herpes virus is fatal to carp, making it difficult for them to breath by attacking their kidneys, skin and gills.

It is unlikely to harm humans and would not affect other fish.

Introduced in the 19th century, carp now make up 80 percent of fish in the Murray-Darling river system, and have killed off many native populations.

This biological control was to form part of an AU$15 million (NZ$15.7 million) carp-control plan.

A spokesperson from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Australia says most of that money will go towards working out how to remove huge quantities of dead fish in the shortest time possible.