Matt Barwick, National Coordinator, NCCP. May 2018.

In May 2016, the Federal Government announced it would be allocating funds to investigate possible methods to reduce impacts of the pest species, European carp on Australia’s waterways.

Most agree carp impacts are severe in many areas of Australia. They have become known as the ‘rabbits of our rivers’ and significantly impact water quality, aquatic plants, native species and environmental health.

It is clear the debate lies not in whether carp impacts need reducing, but on the most effective measures to achieve this – socially, economically and environmentally.

The National Carp Control Plan team was formed to tackle the challenge of identifying a smart, safe, and effective approach to manage carp impacts in Australia. A key focus of this process is to explore the potential use of biocontrol.

Under the NCCP we have engaged 19 of Australia’s leading universities, research institutions and expert organisations to deliver independent and rigorous science and explore carp control options.

Aspects of the research include field studies to estimate carp biomass in affected habitat types Australia-wide, further testing of the species-specific nature of the carp virus, strategies for cleaning up dead carp if the virus is approved for release, complementary methods to control carp such as commercial fishing and genetic biocontrol, as well as research into alternate uses for carp biomass.

Work is also underway to identify how we can best design a plan to reduce risk of negative impacts to people whose business or recreation depends on carp-affected waterways.

Those working on addressing knowledge gaps and risks join others from around Australia exploring regulatory considerations, consulting, communicating and engaging with stakeholders, and conducting operational planning activities; over 200 of Australia’s most experienced scientists in relevant disciplines, communicators, policy makers and planners working together on this national problem.

Much progress has been made, with a broad program of research under the NCCP now over half way through. Research findings will go through an extensive independent peer review process to ensure they are robust before being used and made public.

With key research outputs from three projects currently in independent peer review phase and outputs from a further four entering this phase by mid-year, we will begin sharing some of the findings of NCCP projects over coming months, and look forward to doing so.

I have provided a link to NCCP’s March Progress Report here summarising the research work underway and the findings that are emerging from this important work. The next progress report is due in June 2018.

One common concern raised by stakeholders through consultation conducted to date is that more time is needed to review the research findings and ensure that the right recommendations are made in relation to carp control.

The NCCP was set an initial deadline of December 2018 to deliver recommendations to governments. While we still have six months remaining, I want to assure you that deadlines will not shape outcomes.

This is an important consideration for our nation and one that must deliver long term improvements to our waterways, and how we enjoy them. If the NCCP believes that adequate research and consultation with communities cannot be delivered within the agreed timeframes, an extension will be sought. Those working on the NCCP are currently considering this possibility.

The NCCP reiterates its promise to:

  • make findings of all research projects commissioned by the NCCP available via this website; 
  • ensure a suitable period of time is available to seek feedback from stakeholders on research underpinning the Plan, and draft recommendations; and,
  • share with the public key outputs for comment, including: the draft National Carp Control Plan Operations Strategy, which will describe how release and clean up might occur, and outlines roles and responsibilities, and NCCP reports which describe risks and how they might be managed if approved.
 

This is complex and important work, and I thank you for your patience.

Have Your Say - www.yoursay.carp.gov.au

I also wanted to share with you a new engagement platform that we have just launched to provide people with an opportunity to read more about the research underway and ask questions in relation to the NCCP program and particular areas of focus.

Over the coming months we will be taking a deeper dive into the areas that we have learned are of most interest to the public, and provide an opportunity for users to have their say in relation to those topics. The first area of focus is Curtin University’s Carp Biomass Utilisation research and we encourage you and your members to register and share your thoughts: https://yoursay.carp.gov.au/

Webinar Invitation – Tuesday 22 May 2018 (6PM AEST). NCCP & Joe Pera, Water NSW and University of Technology, Sydney

To provide further detail around the work we are undertaking, the NCCP will also be hosting a NCCP Research Update webinar on Bang the Table to provide stakeholders like yourself an opportunity to hear directly from leading scientists on the work they are undertaking and to ask any questions you may have in relation to this work. The webinar will feature a presentation by Joe Pera, researcher with Water NSW and University of Technology in Sydney on water quality impacts of carp mortality events, and a short presentation by Matt Barwick, prior to a panel discussion where questions will be invited and answered.

To register your interest for this webinar, please email mikala.dickie@frdc.com.au and a link will be provided. I hope that you, or a representative of your organisation, will be able to attend. Further webinars will be held over the coming months.