NCCP Research Projects

Here is a list of the projects currently funded under the NCCP Strategic Research and Technology Plan. These investigations cover the main issues around potential use of carp biocontrol in Australia, ranging from epidemiology of the carp virus, to clean-up strategies and social dynamics.

Some additional research is being finalised at the moment in response to some public & scientific feedback to the NCCP. The details of that work will be included here as they become available. We will also be providing updates on progress as things progress, including videos, images, interviews and results.

Preparing for carp herpesvirus:  carp biomass estimate for eastern Australia

Principal Investigator(s): Jarod Lyon and Ivor Stuart
Institution(s): Arthur Rylah Institute and La Trobe University

The Arthur Rylah Institute in Victoria is leading a five-state collaboration to develop an international best-practice methodology to determine how many carp reside in Australia. If virus release proceeds, understanding how many carp are in our country, and their distribution in the environment, will be vital to the following activities:
Development of virus release strategies
Predicting locations in which high carp mortalities are likely (thereby enabling planning for clean-up)
Evaluating potential impacts from dead carp on water quality.

Carp biomass estimation will be undertaken across a range of habitat types including rivers, lakes, billabongs, and estuaries, and will also allow for fluctuating carp numbers through time. The carp biomass project is relevant to a broad range of stakeholders, including industries, communities, and environmental managers.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Impact costs of carp and expected benefits from carp control in the Murray-Darling Basin

Principal Investigator(s): Peter Chudleigh and Jeff Bennett
Institution(s): Agtrans Research (PC) and Environmental and Resource Economics (JB)

This project addresses the costs caused by carp and the costs and benefits that are likely to emanate from implementing the National Carp Control Plan. The project will consider both market-related issues such as water treatment cost changes as well as non-market costs and benefits, such as changes in recreational fishing experiences and biodiversity. Other aspects to be addressed will be the costs of implementing the Plan including those associated with cleaning up the dead carp. The Cost-Benefit Analysis will be based on the findings from other research, both within the NCCP research program, and more broadly from the published literature.

Social, economic, and ecological risk assessment for use of Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3) for carp biocontrol in Australia

Principal Investigator(s): Peter Caley
Institution(s): CSIRO

This project will develop a systematic and quantitative risk assessment evaluating the ecological, social, and economic risks associated with the use of Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3, hereafter ‘the carp virus’) as a biocontrol agent for carp. The risk assessment will identify key stakeholders and ecological values that could potentially be directly or indirectly affected by carp and the introduction of the virus for carp biocontrol. The research will identify ecological and social risk end-points present within these social contexts and ecological systems; end-points can be viewed as potential barriers to carp biocontrol using the carp virus. Social parameters will then be quantitatively analysed to determine which social and psychological factors are most important to individual perceptions of risk. The likelihood of undesirable endpoints being reached will incorporate possible mitigation actions. The project will provide confidence to the Australian public, regulators and decision makers that the ecological and social risks have been identified and transparently assessed.

Development of strategies to optimise release and clean-up strategies underpinning possible use of Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3) for carp biocontrol in Australia

Principal Investigator(s): Luiz Silva
Institution(s): Charles Sturt University

If carp biocontrol using Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3) proceeds in Australia, major carp mortalities are expected to result. Managing water-quality during major carp kills will require practical, carefully-planned clean-up strategies tailored to particular habitat types. Fish kills occur in various habitats worldwide, and with numerous causes. When kills occur in close proximity to human habitation, or threaten natural values, clean-up activities become imperative. Considerable knowledge and experience of appropriate clean-up methodologies therefore exists both within Australia and overseas, but has not been collated or synthesized and is sometimes difficult to access. This project will systematically seek and evaluate published material on fish-kill clean-up, and will also consult directly with persons experienced in this area (including fish farmers, commercial fishers, and water infrastructure operators). Knowledge from the project will enable the NCCP to learn from previous fish kill clean-up experience, informing development of appropriate and feasible clean-up strategies.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Investigation of nutrient interception pathways to enable circumvention of cyanobacterial blooms following carp mortality events

Principal Investigator(s): Justin Brookes
Institution(s): University of Adelaide

The aim of this work is to determine how mass mortality of carp following CyHV-3 release may affect nutrient concentrations and the implications for cyanobacterial growth.The major factors affecting cyanobacteria in rivers are nutrients and flow which affect temperature stratification and water column stability. This project will determine the flux rate and mass of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from decaying carp and use this information in a hydrodynamic-biogeochemical  model to predict cyanobacterial growth. To help to mitigate the risk of cyanobacteria this project will determine the flow conditions in a range of rivers that allow temperature stratification to develop or erode so that a flow and mixing criterion can be developed to control cyanobacterial growth in rivers. To assess water quality impacts from decaying carp, a whole-wetland experiment will be conducted to assess dissolved oxygen concentrations and water quality as carp decay in a natural environment.

This research underpins the work for the project below, 'Expanded modelling to determine anoxia risk in main river channel and shallow wetlands'.

This project is now complete.

Expanded modelling to determine anoxia risk in main river channel and shallow wetlands.

Principal Investigator(s): Justin Brookes
Institution(s): University of Adelaide

The aim of this work is to predict the impact of mass carp mortality on the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration of wetlands, rivers and floodplain habitats.This project will determine how dissolved oxygen in different habitats responds to changes in hydrologic flushing, temperature, and dead carp accumulation. A combination of experiments and hydrodynamic-biogeochemical modelling will determine how carp density and flow will alter the risk of hypoxia (low oxygen) or anoxia (no oxygen).The hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model will be applied to a range of river types, floodplain wetlands and reservoirs to determine the relative risk of hypoxia and whether flow management can mitigate the risk.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Assessment of options for utilisation of virus-infected carp

Principal Investigator(s): Janet Howieson
Institution(s): Curtin University

The project will investigate the logistical and economic feasibility of a range of possible outcomes for the large volumes of carp biomass expected from the possible release of Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3) for carp biocontrol in Australia. Initially, laboratory based processing trials will be conducted on carp at varying stages of deterioration. Processing data and efficiencies will be documented, compositional and other analyses conducted on the final products and preliminary market information/feedback collected. Commercial-scale trials of any processes that produce usable products from dead carp will then proceed. The project will finish with a detailed cost-benefit analysis of possible processes including attention to harvest strategies and logistics at various locations.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Building community support for carp control: understanding community and stakeholder attitudes and assessing social effects

Principal Investigator(s): Jacki Schirmer
Institution(s): University of Canberra

This project will support development of actions to address community concerns about proposed carp control methods, and through this increase the extent of support for carp control. The project is doing this through several steps. First, the views of different groups and communities about proposed carp control methods are being examined in-depth, to identify both concerns about potential negative impacts and views about positive impacts. This is being done through both in-depth interviews with representatives of key groups who may be involved in and affected by carp control measures proposed in the National Carp Control Plan, and through large-scale quantitative surveys of communities across Australia. Collaborative stakeholder workshops will then be held to identify the actions that can be taken to help address concerns, reduce potential for negative impacts, and maximise potential for positive impacts. The views of different groups and communities about the proposed actions will then be examined through further interviews and surveys, and refined in a second collaborative workshop. This project will, together with the broader consultation undertaken by the NCCP, ensure that all stages of the development of the Plan are informed by a thorough understanding of the potential benefits and costs of carp control for different groups and communities, and can address these.

Development of hydrological, ecological, and epidemiological modelling to inform a CyHV-3 release strategy for the biocontrol of carp in the Murray-Darling Basin

Principal Investigator(s): Peter Durr
Institution(s): CSIRO

In order to predict the effect of the CyHV-3 virus on carp in the Murray Darling Basin we are will be using computer modelling. Such modelling works by creating something similar to a computer game, in this case simulating the way the virus spreads from one fish to another. However, the simulation of the release of the virus needs to be done with much more rigour than a computer game, and as such we have bought together a world class team of experts on rivers and waterways, fish biology, virology, disease spread (“epidemiology”) and computing programming. The final model will have a number of uses, including working out where and when to release the virus so as to maximise the removal of carp, whilst at the same time minimising adverse effects on water quality.

Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 and its relevance to humans

Principal Investigator(s): Katrina Roper
Institution(s): Australian National University

Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are an introduced fish that now dominate fish communities throughout many Australian inland waterways. Recently cyprinid herpesvirus 3 has been proposed as a potential biological control method for carp in Australia. Reports have been published evaluating the susceptibility of non-target species. However, concerns remain around the ecological and environment impact of the release of the virus. This project will provide from the published literature a risk assessment of the potential impact on human health from the release of the virus into Australian inland water systems.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

The Likely Medium- to Long-Term Ecological Outcomes of Major Carp Population Reductions

Principal Investigator(s): Susan Nichols
Institution(s): University of Canberra

This work collected and analysed expert views and scientific literature to better understand the likely medium- to long-term (5-10 year) ecological responses to reduced carp populations.

The National Carp Control Program is assessing the feasibility of controlling carp using the carp virus. This is being done with a view of improving the ecosystems that are currently damaged by carp. This project sought to provide scientific evidence to confirm that carp control would improve ecosystems in Australian waterways.

Experts interviewed during this project confidently predicted that ecosystems would continue to degrade under a ‘do nothing to control carp’ scenario, acknowledging that carp are considered an ecological problem. Evidence from both the expert elicitation and the scientific literature, indicates that under favourable circumstances the removal of pest fish that feed on the floor of waterways, such as the common carp, can have positive long-term ecosystem outcomes. To achieve these ecosystem benefits, carp populations would need to be significantly reduced (70-100%) and the suppression of carp biomass would need to be sustained. Some ecosystems, such as wetlands, were identified as being more likely to show a significant response to carp reductions than others.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Synergistic genetic biocontrol options for common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Principal Investigator(s): Claus Wedekind
Institution(s): University of Lausanne

This research reviewed genetic biocontrol options for carp in Australia.

Synergistic genetic biocontrol technologies can be grouped into those that do not involve engineered DNA sequences and those that do. The former include the “sterile male” and the “Trojan Y chromosome” technologies. The latter include genetic constructs that lead males to produce only male fertile offspring while daughters are either sterile or non-viable (“daughterless carp”), or to various types of engineered gene-drive technologies that would be sexually propagated but could still reach 100% inheritance.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

The role of commercial fishing in control of invasive freshwater fish species

Principal Investigator(s): Paul Brown
Institution(s): La Trobe University’s Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems, Tasmania’s Inland Fisheries Service and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industry-Fisheries

Researchers reviewed case studies of invasive fish management using commercial fishing and assess the prospects for overfishing Australian populations of Common carp; identifying factors critical to success.

Analysis suggested that Common carp are unlikely to be overfished accidentally or deliberately. Review of published invasive fish control projects using commercial fishing revealed no examples of large-scale, lasting success.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.

Carp biomass and population dynamics

Principal Investigator(s): John Koehn
Institution(s): Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP)

The aim of this project was to modify and apply the existing Carp population model to provide forward estimates of likely Carp biomass and numbers for a range of hydrological scenarios for the year 2023.

As Carp populations can respond rapidly to hydrological conditions, especially flood events that provide access to preferred spawning habitats and can lead to significant recruitment, there is a need to consider likely population outcomes from subsequent hydrological conditions

The resultant predicted population biomasses for 2023 can vary considerably from the static 2018 estimate. These estimates vary depending on the hydrological scenario (Drought or Flood) and also
for each region and initial distribution and population size of Carp.

The estimates of Carp biomasses in 2023 using an initial population size of the 2018 mean estimate are 167 960 - 172 895 t for the Drought scenario and 428 808 - 444 144 t for the Flood scenario. A maximum additional biomass from Western Australia, Tasmania and irrigation channels was be considered to be 30 464 t.

This project is now complete. Download the final report.