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Plan to control carp in our waterways with a virus delayed for a year

Erin Jones and Donna Coutts, October 18, 2018 9:09AM The Advertiser

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Common carp. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland media_cameraCommon carp. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland


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An Australian world-first plan to control pest fish called carp with a virus* has been put back a year while researchers check the plan can work.

Carp, or European carp, are thought to do $500 million worth of damage to Australian waterways a year. They suck mud into their mouths and spit it out again, causing erosion* to the banks and muddying the water, making life difficult for native fish and other creatures that live in and around water.

Most people agree a solution to control carp is urgently needed for the health of the environment.

Under the National Carp Control Plan, a type of herpes virus* that already exists around the world would be released to kill the carp. It is hoped the virus will kill 70 per cent of the carp, which could be enough to radically* improve waterway health.

The plan was due to be finalised* by the end of this year but some people were worried not enough was understood about how well the virus would spread, how drought would effect the plan and whether lots of dead fish in rivers and creeks would cause problems.

The Federal Government has approved an extension* for the development of the $15 million National Carp Control Plan.

Plan co-ordinator Matt Barwick told The Advertiser newspaper the original time frame was “ambitious*” given it was the first time in the world a project like this had been developed.

Mr Barwick said the extra year would allow for research around how many carp of what size — called the biomass — are in different habitats and a better understanding of how the herpes virus moves through a carp population.

media_cameraMatt Barwick National Carp Control Plan for Natalie Kotsios Weekly Times

“We need to do some computer modelling* to adjust the biomass as drought and floods affect population between now and when a release might occur, if approved,” he said.

“Research underway right now is also showing us we need to understand more about how the virus transmits* — fish-to-fish contact and contaminated water.

“We also need to understand more about how the temperature effects the virus and its capacity to cause disease in carp and outbreaks in the (carp) population.”


  • Large freshwater fish native to central Asia;
  • Farmed for food in Europe, Asia and the Middle East;
  • Introduced into Victoria in 1859;
  • Considered pests in Australia, Canada and the US;
  • Spread across most of southeastern Australia, including through the Murray-Darling river system;
  • When small they look like goldfish, but you can tell carp by the whiskers — called barbels — either side of their mouths;
  • Can grow to 1.2m long and weigh 60kg but in Australia most carp weigh about 4-5kg;
  • Eat whatever is available and can tolerate* pollution, temperature changes, dirty water and waterways that are drying out, whereas native fish aren’t quite so tough.
European Carp. Burrumbeet Creek. media_cameraEuropean Carp dying in Burrumbeet Creek as Lake Burrumbeet dries out.

One small town in northern Victoria is doing its best to keep carp numbers down in the local lake while everyone waits for a better solution.

Boort, 250km northwest of Melbourne, has a lake in the centre of the town that is the area’s main tourist attraction, mostly used for waterskiing. A carp fishing competition is held each year — it’s on October 20-21 this year — and locals and visitors try hard for two days to catch as many carp as they can.

Last year, the keen anglers caught 245 carp.

A carp. Those big lips such mud in and damage riverbanks. The barbels, like whiskers, are how you tell it's a carp and not a goldfish. Picture: supplied media_cameraA carp. Those big lips such mud in and damage riverbanks. The barbels, like whiskers, are how you tell it’s a carp and not a goldfish. Picture: supplied


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  • virus: a type of infection that causes disease
  • erosion: washed away
  • herpes virus: a contagious group of diseases
  • radically: completely
  • finalised: completed planning
  • extension: extra time
  • ambitious: having a big idea and working hard to make it happen
  • modelling: using what you know to predict what will happen
  • transmits: pass from one to another
  • tolerate: put up with



  1. How do carp cause erosion?
  2. What percentage of the carp population is it hoped the virus would kill?
  3. How can you tell carp from goldfish?
  4. What can they tolerate that native fish can’t?
  5. How are people in Boort trying to keep carp numbers down?

1. What’s your opinion?
Do you think the National Carp Control Plan should go ahead? Give reasons for your opinion. Use your ideas to create a poster. The aim of your poster is to convince people of your opinion.

Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Can you think of another way that the problems caused by carp could be solved or improved? Create a plan based on your idea.

Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Scientists work on understanding every part of our world and beyond! What area of science interests you most? What would you like to know more about?

Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No one-word answers.

Extra Reading in environment