Carp have infested Australia’s waterways. They are now present in huge numbers, impacting the integrity, health and viability of our aquatic ecosystems. They make water muddy, increase nutrients, dominate native fish populations and stop water plants from sprouting.
Small experiments have shown that when carp impacts are controlled, these problems can be solved – water clarity improves, small native fish recover, and water plants bloom. The question is: how could we take these great benefits and apply them at the national scale?
The goal of the NCCP is to answer this very question. It’s a big task, which involves all levels of government, scientists and managers, and diverse communities working together to interrogate scenarios, challenge assumptions, and ask and answer real questions.
Over the past few decades, several methods have been considered, from commercial fishing to daughterless carp. There are also new genetic methods in development globally to address the impacts of invasive species: gene drive, Trojan Y, synthetic incompatibility etc.
However, at this time, the only viable continental measure available today is likely to be viral biocontrol in combination with other measures to ensure long-term results. So, a key job of the NCCP is to see if the carp virus could be used safely and effectively to help reduce carp impacts below the threshold at which we know they cause ecological impacts.
Our job is to make recommendations to government about what an effective approach to controlling carp might look like. Answering the question: if the virus was used, what would that look like and how might it work, if it could indeed work? That means establishing a program of research and consultation founded in objective optimism and asking the question, “How could we as the Australian community rise to this challenge – the challenge presented by carp and their ecological impacts?”
The NCCP will only make recommendations to government based on what is scientifically possible and what the Australian community are prepared to invest in. The program has been, and will continue to be, guided by independent experts, stakeholder input and public submissions.
At the end of the day, our hope is that we might all be able to work together to enact a shared vision of healthier aquatic ecosystems with reduced carp impacts.
Clearer Waters is a video series telling part of that story. It will showcase some of the science underpinning the National Carp Control Plan, tackling some of the big questions that we are all interested in answering as Australians who care about the future of our native fish species and our waterways.