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Carp control policy an exercise in futility

Date

John Thistleton

Alan Wood of Melbourne releases a large carp back into the lake.

Alan Wood of Melbourne releases a large carp back into the lake. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Tonnes of huge carp are regularly returned to Lake Burley Griffin, a move that is in conflict with multi-million-dollar strategies supported by the ACT government to clean up the Murray-Darling Basin and Canberra's lakes.

Tournament rules for coarse fishing (for freshwater fish other than trout and salmon) are at odds with a key strategy of the Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach clean-up program from Bredbo in NSW to Casuarina Sands in the ACT.

Supporting the Demonstration Reach, which aims to improve the river's health for native fish, are ''carp out'' events, where thousands of anglers take as many carp as they can from where they breed and congregate, especially in Lake Burley Griffin. Native fish, including Murray cod, that eat carp are released in the same water.

Howard Hill looks at a small carp he has just caught.

Howard Hill looks at a small carp he has just caught. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Yet on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Sydney Coarse Angling Club pulled more than a thousand carp from Lake Burley Griffin and returned every one of them to the water.

The club's spokesman, Howard Hill, said reducing numbers would do more harm than good, because the fewer carp left in the lake would breed more to overtake the number caught and killed.

He said 37 anglers competed over the weekend, while bigger national and Australia-versus-New Zealand events were planned for February. More than 3500 kilograms of carp were caught and released at the last national event in Canberra.

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Coarse anglers also got exemptions that allowed them to return noxious fish, including redfin perch, to the rivers and lakes of NSW and Victoria.

The conflict in the ACT had been apparent since 2010, when the Demonstration Reach strategy was released, with policy authors noting that coarse tournaments resulted in the capture and release of several tonnes of carp.

''Such exemptions clearly conflict with the intent of this carp reduction plan,'' they said. ''In NSW there are similar issues with it not being illegal to return carp to the waterway after capture.''

Canberra ecologist and long-time fishing commentator Bryan Pratt estimated that about eight million eggs were taken from a single carp captured in the ACT recently.

He said multiplying the tens of millions of carp in Lake Burley Griffin with the eggs they carried explained why rod-and-line fishing, netting, trapping, even lowering the lake's level during spawning, would never eradicate the pest.

Dr Pratt said other than gene and virus methods, it was unlikely Lake Burley Griffin would ever be free of carp.

''Possible yes, probable no,'' he said.

''No established pest has ever been eradicated from mainland Australia, despite intensive effort, many millions of dollars, and being supported by powerful legislation that requires pests to be controlled.''

Such was the resilience and mobility of carp and the spread of their eggs by waterbirds, a blitz on the pest in spawning hot spots could not be in isolation. Controls were needed across a wide area to reduce numbers in rivers, lakes, urban ponds and farm dams.

The strategy, and an ACT taskforce , recommends targeting spawning or congregating carp in hot spots, such as the mouth of Sullivans Creek, Jerrabomberra Creek and its associated wetlands.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said a deal on waterways contained in his agreement with ACT Labor would include carp reduction. The Greens promised $165,000 for the carp program before the election, but details had not been settled with the government.

He said although it was unknown whether carp could be fully eradicated, substantially reducing their numbers could make a big difference.

Research indicated carp were first detected in the ACT in 1976 when several were caught in Lake Burley Griffin. They were suspected of being introduced when other fish were put into the lake.

CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Ron Thresher believed he had a solution in 5000 potential carriers of a daughterless carp gene.

Not only would breeding carp who could have only sons help tip the balance against the freshwater menace, the technology could potentially have the same impact on cane toads.

Dr Thresher's research team found genes in a carp's relative, the zebra fish, which were female only and could trigger another gene construct that eliminated the females, turned females into males or made the females sterile.

''We could have fish ready for field trials within 12 to 18 months if the funding was available,'' Dr Thresher said. ''With carp, it is a longer generation; we are probably looking at four or five years.''

About $8 million had been invested in the technology that rearranged genes and returned them to the fish. But research had stalled due to lack of continuing funding.

''Having invested millions of dollars to get the work to this stage, it seems short-sighted not to complete the trials,'' Dr Thresher said.

12 comments

  • My goodness, this could only happen in the ACT.

    Commenter
    Tc
    Date and time
    December 10, 2012, 8:39AM
    • Fund the gene trial; kill all carp.

      The M-D's biggest threat (putting aside dams, irrigation and salt) is carp.

      Then we can start on cats, foxes, pigs, rabbits, brumbies, camels, cane toads, blackberries, willows and god knows what else that was introduced by teh Englisg and Eurpoeans!

      Commenter
      Kill all carp
      Date and time
      December 10, 2012, 10:58AM
    • Eradicating the introduced pest european carp might sound like a good idea but it would remove a valuable food source for native fish & is impossible at this stage anyway.
      I kill and plant in the vege garden every carp I catch & encourage every angler to so too.
      Rainbow & brown trout are an introduced species and are voracious feeders and highly effective predators of native fish fingerlings, frogs and other aquatic species...but are heavily protected by laws... double standards for some.

      Commenter
      dusty
      Location
      fishy business
      Date and time
      December 10, 2012, 11:37AM
  • Howard Hill, u sir are an idiot. Dont know how you guys got an exemptions to put back noxious pests into the eco system but it is ridiculas. And the Government is no longer funding this new technology is i aslo find a bit silly, why spend millions then stop it when it is so close to completion? I do understand that Govenrment are looking to use the Herpes virus to eliminate Carp but when this can be used accross other species seems a bit dumb.

    Commenter
    JimboSlice
    Date and time
    December 10, 2012, 10:18AM
    • Obviously moving forward, we need the science to support the methodology, therefore my government will spend 2 billion and set up a carp institute run by ANU to investigate if reducing the number of carp will have psychological effects on the remaining carp. This study will be a world first and my science minister predicts the results will be available in 2030. This is a positive day for the environment and has full approval of the greens and independents therefore it must be good policy so there.

      Commenter
      Tony of Brisbane
      Date and time
      December 10, 2012, 10:26AM
      • Howard Hill and Alan Wood are environmental vandals. What a load of rubbish to say that the more carp pulled from the lake the more they would breed. If you had a carp out every week the numbers would have to go down (I didn't know they were thrown back in, a unique level of stupidity). The Murray cod would look after the rest. How stupid, a "carp out" for them all to be returned to the lake.

        Commenter
        WotTha?????
        Date and time
        December 10, 2012, 11:00AM
        • It's common practice for English coarse fisherman use live maggots for bait to catch their tench or carp...and keep the maggots fresh & handy under their tongues...the fishermans tongue that is.
          Gives a whole new meaning to fly fishing.
          Next time you hear a coarse fisherman say He has worms...give him a dose of Conbantrim.

          Commenter
          dusty
          Location
          on the tip of my tongue
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 3:54PM
      • Tony of Brisbane, what would you like to see happen? Like degraded environments do you? Or just making empty rightwing japes?

        Commenter
        Captain
        Date and time
        December 10, 2012, 11:08AM
        • Carp first detected in ACT in 1976 ???? So what was I and my mates catching in 1969 in Lake Burley Griffin ??? Bream??? Must've been according to research. Exemption to put back noxious pests ???? Yep, sounds like ACT public servants.....you imbeciles.

          Commenter
          tonyred
          Location
          canberra
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 12:01PM
          • New campaign/objective for the new ACT Government - new slogan - 'Stamp out Carp' ; think globally/nationally and act locally and get the 5 year program underway with the normal fanfare early in the New Year; this is serious! Objective: remove 1,000 kg/pa of carp from ACT waterways; objective increases by 500kg/pa. Consider a bounty per kg of carp removed/destroyed. Produce the tails to Office of Env. Minister to claim. But must be done within 48 hours of capture for health reasons. Also consider recycling carp as fertiser (been done before) as a by-product of program. Good luck.

            Commenter
            Blue Leader
            Location
            Belconnen
            Date and time
            December 10, 2012, 12:26PM

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