Scientists Want to Eradicate Invasive Fish With Herpes

posted: 01/13/16
by: Danny Clemens
Common carp

Australia's destructive carp population is about to come down with a deadly case of herpes -- and condoms can't save them.

A highly invasive species, the European carp was inadvertently introduced to Australian waterways in the 1960s. The resilient fish can survive in a variety of habitats -- including environmentally degraded areas -- and is known to produce up to a million eggs per year.

Scientists say that the fish, which now accounts for as much as 90% of biomass in certain parts of southeastern Australia's Murray-Darling Basin, has proven detrimental to freshwater ecosystems.

"Carp muddy their waters resulting in flow-on effects on plants, invertebrates, bird-life and native fish in shallow lakes," CSIRO's Dr. Ken McColl explains. "Researchers concluded that common carp damage the ecology of shallow lakes, particularly when carp density reaches levels similar to those in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin."

Related: This Invasive Fish Can Live Out of Water and Walk on Land

After seven years of investigation, CSIRO is planning to release Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3) into waterways throughout southeastern Australia to eradicate the European carp population.

The naturally occurring virus was first identified in the late 1990s, when it quickly ravaged koi and carp populations in aquaculture farming operations throughout Asia, Europe and North America.

Research has shown that other species of local marine wildlife are immune to the effects of CyHV-3. Also safe from the virus are birds, which are expected to play a significant role in the cleanup of dead carp after the virus is released.

Although many farm workers were exposed to CyHV-3 during early outbreaks, there were no evidence that the virus has any effects on humans, leading scientists to believe that the strain is safe for use as a biocontrol agent in developed areas.

Related: Meet the World's First Fully Warm-Blooded Fish

While many stakeholders support the move, conservationists stress that a long-term strategy is necessary to ensure that the species' eradication and the eventual recovery of the impacted waterways.

"We are right behind carp biological control. Strong state and federal government investment will be needed to maximise the chance of success," Andrew Cox, CEO of the Invasive Species Council, says in a news release.

"It is essential that community engagement and on ground clean-up efforts accompany the release of the virus' so that water quality and native species fully benefit."


About the blog:
DSCOVRD: The best of the web, covering space, technology, wildlife and more!
More on