Could Herpes Virus Eradicate Invasive Carp?

The federal government of Australia has a unique plan to use herpes virus to kill off a massive invasive carp population.

The infestation of carp in Australian waterways have reached similar levels to that of the Great Lakes and Midwestern United States where wildlife managers have struggled to contain the rapid spread.

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In Australia the economic impact of carp is estimated at $500 million per year. No place are they as pervasive as the Murray-Darling river system, where federal officials have focused particular attention.

Invasive carp populations choke out native wildlife and can destroy fisheries. As strange as it sounds, researchers in Australia have identified a strain of herpes virus, which has no impact on humans, that could kill off an estimated 95 percent of the carp population in 30 years.

Science Minister Christopher Pyne called the ensuing carnage “Carpageddon” and discussed the logistics of killing off such massive numbers of fish with the Australian Broadcast Corporation. 

“Suddenly, there will be literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tonnes of carp that will be dead in the River Murray,” Pyne told the news station.

For that reason, officials won’t release the virus until 2018, until they have time to plan for the response. They will need to have a cleanup program in place and sufficient community outreach. Talk has begun about using the fish for fertilizer or pet food.

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Some are skeptical that the $15 million project can keep up with the amount of dead fish.

Whether the virus is harmful to human health has been found to be negative. Israel reportedly eat carp often that has been treated with a vaccine for the same herpes virus and there have been no reported effects. 

Scientists have also found the virus does not affect other species of fish, making it an ideal agent for targeting strictly this invasive species. 

© Delfiia | – Large fish Carp in the lake. Fishery.