Australia Is Releasing Herpes Into The Murray River

Scientists say the infectious virus will kill the European carp.

The Federal Government has announced that a virulent strain of herpes will be released into the Murray-Darling river system in an attempt to eliminate the European carp.

The carp, who suck up mud and spit it out, have brought native fish numbers to the brink of extinction in recent years as they reach plague proportions.

The $15 million project is expected to eradicate 90 percent of carp within 30 years.

"It affects the European carp by attacking their kidneys, their skin, their gills and stopping them breathing effectively," says Science Minister Christopher Pyne.

"They have the virus for a week before they show any symptoms and it suddenly kills them within 24 hours."

Common carp, Cyprinus carpio

The virus will not have an effect on any other animals or humans in and around the river system, according to CSIRO scientists who have been testing the koi herpes virus for almost ten years.

Much of the money allocated to the project will be used to dispose of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carp that will die in the river.

A pile of carp from a cage trap in the Murray-Darling Basin

[Image: Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre]

"There's obvious talk about whether the carp could be used for fertiliser, whether they could be used for pet food, whether they'll need to be buried in large graves and be allowed to dissipate back into the system," Mr. Pyne said.

The European carp was first introduced to Australia in the 1800s, before flooding in the 1970s pushed their populations into the Murray River.

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