About us

Since July 2016, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) have been undertaking a world-first program to assess the feasibility of using Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (the carp virus) as a biological control agent for introduced common carp in Australia, as part of the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP). In January 2020, the FRDC delivered its assessment for consideration by government.

Noting there are additional pieces of research underway, the Department and the FRDC decided that integrating key research results into a single document would best facilitate assessment and government consideration of the carp virus’s potential as a biocontrol agent. As such, FRDC will integrate the outputs of this research into the plan for delivery to the Australian Government in early 2022.

The FRDC’s National Carp Control Plan is one of several important inputs that will inform a decision by the Australian, state and territory governments on the carp virus. In addition to the FRDC’s work, a final decision on carp biocontrol will require further public consultation and regulatory approval.

Clear water in a small spot free of carp, Northern Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve 2011. Image: Tom Rayner.

Background

Carp are one of Australia’s most significant pest species. They were introduced to Australia in the mid-19th century, and are now the dominant large-bodied fish in most Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) waterways. The species is also abundant in many eastern coastal rivers and isolated populations occur in Western Australia. Ecological impacts attributed to carp in Australian ecosystems include decreased water clarity, destruction of aquatic plants that provide food and habitat for native species, and food chain domination.

Biological control using Cyprinid herpesvirus-3 (CyHV-3, or ‘the carp virus’) offers the potential to control carp effectively over large areas. Before any decision to release a virus however, it is important to investigate questions of feasibility:

  1. Will biocontrol using the carp virus be effective?
  2. What are the risks associated with carp biocontrol and how can they be managed?
  3. How could carp biocontrol be implemented?

To address these questions, the National Carp Control Plan, funded by the Australian Government, coordinated a $10.2 million planning process, the most intensive investigation ever devoted to a biological control agent before its possible release.

Native species are set to benefit from carp control. This Murray cod has a research tag fitted. Image: Tom Rayner.

The National Coordinator Terms of Reference can be found here.

The task of addressing the feasibility questions was complex, Given the continental scale of the project, the sheer biomass of carp in our waterways, the overlapping environmental, economic, social and cultural factors, and the amount of legislation carp control touches.

To guide us through the process, we enlisted expert support through the Science Advisory Group, the Policy Advisory Group and the Operations Working Group. The experts’ role was to provide advice, guide decision-making and oversee the NCCP. Working groups were established in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Environment and Invasives Committee (formerly Invasive Plants and Animals Committee) to provide input into communication and engagement activities and contribute to development of the NCCP.

Science Advisory Group

The Science Advisory Group (SAG) provided scientific advice on knowledge gaps and key risks.

The SAG comprised nominated representatives from all affected states and territories with collective expertise in aquatic ecology, fish virology/epidemiology, water management, social science and human health.

The group was instrumental in developing the Strategic Research and Technology Plan (SRTP). While research priorities necessarily evolved during the life of the plan in response to the research, collaboration and advisory processes, the STRP provided the starting point for the NCCP to begin investigations to underpin informed decisions on carp control.

The group included members from the following organisations:

Queensland Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries

CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratories

Primary Industries and Regions SA – SARDI Aquatic Sciences

NSW DPI Fisheries

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Arthur Rylah Institute

Office of Health Protection, Australian Government Dept. of Health

The University of Adelaide

ACT government

Panaquatic Health Solutions

University of Tasmania – Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies

Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation

School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Service

Aquaculture and Aquatic Biosecurity Branch, Department of Fisheries WA

 

Operations Working Group

The Operations Working Group (OWG) comprised ‘state leads’ with expertise in water infrastructure, natural resources, agriculture, biosecurity, tourism, health and transport, plus relevant NCCP researchers.

The group provided planning support and contributed to the development of detailed strategies for a potential release of the carp virus and subsequent clean-up.

The group included members from the following organisations:

Commonwealth Environmental Water Office

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Victorian Fisheries Authority

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia

Freshwater Pest Fish, Biosecurity Queensland

ACT Government

Murray Darling Basin Authority

Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute

 

Policy Advisory Group 

The Policy Advisory Group (PAG) provided policy and legislative advice.

The PAG comprised nominated representatives from all affected states and territories, with collective expertise in biosecurity, water and natural resource management, fisheries and environmental assessment.

A key task for the PAG has been identification of legislation relevant to carp control and co-ordination of approvals.

The role of the PAG has been taken over by Environment and Invasives Committee (formerly IPAC) which integrated NCCP planning and regulatory considerations into Australia's existing national biosecurity framework.

Communications Working Group 

 The Communications Working Group (CWG) comprised communication managers from environment and natural resource agencies and organisations with expertise in fisheries, pest management, river operations and extension.

The group contributed to the successful engagement of the Australian community about carp impacts and control.

The group included members from the following organisations:

Murray Darling Basin Authority

Victorian Fisheries Authority

Primary Industries and Regions SA

Department of Agriculture & Water Resources

ACT Government

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

CSIRO

University of Canberra

Natural Resources South Australia

Murray Darling Association Inc.

Dept. of Agriculture and Water Resources

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries