Carp articles miss the real angle
A Melbourne angler releases a large carp back into the lake. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Recent reports of the Sydney Coarse Angling Club's annual Canberra Classic angling competition at Lake Burley Griffin attracted a number of ill-informed and inappropriate responses, including an assertion that club members who released captured carp back into the lake were ''environmental vandals''.
One member of the club was even subjected to threats after the publication of two articles in this newspaper which sought to highlight a potential conflict between the ACT government's carp reduction strategy and the angling club's commitment to catch-and-release fishing.
The club refutes the claim of vandalism - put simply, nothing was destroyed and releasing carp back into the water from which they were caught is not illegal in the ACT.
Howard Hill looks at a small carp he has just caught. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The club has worked closely with ACT authorities since it first hosted the event here in 1995.
It is estimated the events have contributed $500,000 to the ACT community.
In the early years, an agreement was reached that all native fish, such as Murray cod, would be released immediately after capture to avoid any damage to the fish.
Indeed all fish caught during the competition are eventually released.
While 1700kg of carp were caught during this year's event, the catch rates of carp have fallen over the years.
This year and last year no goldfish were caught and the number of native fish caught this year significantly increased.
An increase in small carp capture was also reported this year - possibly because of the flood events over the past two years or because of carp recruitment.
The definitive scientific study into the impacts of carp, in our opinion, was conducted in the late 1980s by the Bureau of Rural Sciences.
The study reported that the ad-hoc removal of carp may in fact increase carp numbers because the remaining carp breed into the space left behind when adults are randomly removed from the population.
This conclusion has been substantiated several times since this report was produced.
This phenomenon is known as recruitment and native fish cannot compete with carp in terms of reproduction.
About every five years a scientist is commissioned to study carp and their conclusions make for some interesting reading.
The ''best'' yet was a proposal to release northern hemisphere pike. A coarse angler in Victoria put a stop to this as it would have been an environmental disaster for native fish.
Each time a scientist is commissioned to undertake studies into the effect of carp, it costs the community financially and most of the time the conclusions are not new.
Each new report seems to be a reproduction of previous reports.
It appears to us that the science of carp is a self-sustaining industry with little or no positive outcomes relative to carp control.
We do not have a problem with anglers or government agencies that attempt to remove carp from inland waterways provided that the same standard is applied all non-native fish, for example redfin perch, trout, Atlantic salmon, goldfish and roach.
As a responsible club we have reported on the safe capture and release of rare species such as the river blackfish, we have collected genetic samples of Murray/eastern cod, assisted in the installation of fish ladders and most recently staged the world firefighters freshwater angling competition.
All we ask is that we are understood by the angling and wider community and that the facts are recognised: the indiscriminate removal of carp has no environmental impact and may make the situation worse.
The confusion and controversy these articles have created may be good for selling newspapers but a downside of all this publicity may be that more radical elements of the environmental movement
gain traction against angling in general.
Carp are here to stay and as such there is very little we can do, so let's use them as a genuine sports fish but continue to work on returning our waterways to as pristine a condition as is reasonably practical.
We hope to continue to use Canberra as part of the angling club's activities as it is a fantastic location and venue.
Maybe next time someone wants to discuss angling, let's hope they get the facts before a responsible fishing club is threatened or inappropriately criticised.
Steve Scott is secretary of the Sydney Coarse Angling Club.