Carp herpes virus: Inland Seafood Co-Op plans commercial fishing as alternative

Fishers: Glen and Tracy Hill, pictured at a fair at Meningie in March, hope to develop an alternative to the planned release of the carp virus. Photo: Marianne Cunneen.
Fishers: Glen and Tracy Hill, pictured at a fair at Meningie in March, hope to develop an alternative to the planned release of the carp virus. Photo: Marianne Cunneen.

Where some see a scourge, Tracy Hill sees an opportunity.

She and her husband Glen are working with other Murray-Darling Basin fishers on an alternative to the planned release of the carp herpes virus in 2018.

The virus would kill almost every carp in the river, affecting South Australia's water supply and potentially, Mrs Hill worries, de-oxygenating it to the point that many or all native species could be wiped out as well.

Instead of that "nuclear option", she is proposing a commercial harvest of the fish across three states to bring their population under control.

"I've got an order I could fill tomorrow of 10,000 tonnes of carp to China," she said.

"I've got fish meal places, fertiliser places.

"If they're going to pay someone to take the fish, they may as well pay someone to make something out of it.

Under the name Inland Seafood Co-Op, Mrs Hill and her collaborators hope to develop an independent plan to lower carp populations while providing employment, revenue and food security.

Carp might be considered a pest in Australia, she said, but it was the most widely eaten fish in the world, and delicious when handled and processed correctly.

The Co-Op's plan would centre on a commercial harvest, but incorporate long-term measures such as genetic sterilisation, which might take decades to become effective.

A forward-thinking industry is trying to get out there and ... create solutions.

Tracy Hill

Mrs Hill described the National Carp Control Plan's focus on the virus as a failure of imagination.

On its website, the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) acknowledges the potential of commercial fishing to remove large quantities of carp quickly in specific locations.

But it said fishing had "low viability" as a control plan because it was not economical and depended too heavily on market prices, costs and the quantity of available fish.

That assessment was based on studies from 2005 and 1998.

When used correctly, based on science, bio-control would be a better option.

However, the NCCP also noted that mass carp mortalities "could have water quality impacts detrimental to native species".

The terms of reference for the NCCP do not describe the release of the virus as a certainty, but the NCCP is required to develop a strategy for its potential release and "follow-up activities", which can then be accepted or rejected based on the available science.

The NCCP's final plan is due to be presented at the end of 2018.

This story Fishers plan alternative to carp virus release first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.