Australia is the only continent free of this notifiable disease, yet the Australian Government seems determined to release this disease into Australian waters. After reading the Final report: Phase 3 of the carp herpesvirus project (CyHV-3), Dr Ken McColl (2016), I was alarmed and disappointed.

The CSIRO operates under the The Science and Industry Research Act 1949, their purpose is to carry out scientific research for the benefit of Australia.

The CSIRO conducted research based on the hypothesis “Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (CyHV-3; also known as koi herpesvirus, or the carp herpesvirus) could be used as a safe and effective biological control agent for carp in Australia”. Disappointingly, they failed to conduct good scientific research as per the results published in the “Final Report”.

To be good science outcomes must be consist. The research methods and findings must be able to be repeated by others to confirm the researcher’s assertions are true. This is a key factor that separates science from dogma!

The information provided in the final report clearly indicated the research results are not consistent, outcomes are unknown and the results cannot be accurately replicated.

For example:
Phase 3 The additional susceptibility testing of non-target species; demonstrating the virus has no adverse effects on non-target species (NTS).

As per Table 1 high mortalities were documented for a number of native fish and the one crustacean species tested with exposure to the carp virus. The result of bath immersion of animals was listed in Table 1 with a % of mortality that occurred.
For carp the target species 54% died
For B. bidyanus (Silver Perch) 27% died
For M. peelii (Murray Cod) 23% died
For M. ambigua (Golden Perch) 42% died
For G. maculatus (Common Galaxias) 83% died
For M. cephalus (Mullet) 30% died
For O. mykiss (Trout) 45% died
For R. semoni (Smelt ) 40% died
For C. destructor (Yabby) 13% died
These are the actual result of testing.

In the report results, the author clearly states C. destructor, B. bidyanus, O. mykiss and M. cephalus, exhibited clinical signs of disease.

When tested for the presence of the virus and 109 samples proved positive, the report then goes on to state “These positive results could possibly be explained either by low levels of replicating CyHV-3 in tissues from virus-challenged animals, or by inadvertent contamination of samples with viral DNA, possibly during the collection of samples, or during laboratory processing of the samples”. That’s not good science, that’s speculation. A reputable scientist would repeat the experiment time and again until the result was consistent and can be replicated by others to receive the same result, not make an assumption as to why they got the result they got.

The Report concludes; “In summary, clinical, molecular and histological observations, together with mortality data, strongly suggest that CyHV-3 is unable to replicate in, let alone affect, a wide taxonomic range of both native Australian animals and introduced species”. Based on their own science documented in their report this is not a scientific fact but a strong suggestion that they have a feeling that everything is going to be okay. Is the Australian Government going to risk the destruction of our inland waterways because some self-interest group has a feeling that everything will be okay???

Less than 30 native freshwater fish species were tested, what about the hundreds of other species? Only one crustacean species was tested, the common yabby, what about the other 140 freshwater crayfish species, what about the shrimp, what about the crabs??? Just question after question that they don’t know the answers to!

What about the other non native species? What about Redfin, it’s now a major recreational and commercial species, what happens to that fishery?

Redfin Perch (English Perch) for sale at Sydney Fish Markets
Redfin Perch (English Perch) for sale at Sydney Fish Markets

When they do release the virus they have no accurate idea how this will impact our inland waterways. The NCCP doesn’t have a clue how many carp are in our waterways, but estimates range from 2 million to 6 million tonnes. It has been stated at various times by NCCP members and politicians that volunteers will be utilised to clean up large volumes of rotting fish? That’s just brainless! As a commercial fish farmer I know for a fact that when large numbers of fish die, the majority sink to the bottom, only when they have decomposed enough do the gasses from decomposition float them back to the top and even then not all the dead fish will actually float to the top, the rest will just rot on the bottom. The rivers will be polluted long before the decomposing carp are floating.

Let’s say you are a recreational fisher and your local fishing club has organised a volunteer day to get you all out on the river to clean up dead carp. You get your nice clean boat out of the garage, pick up your mate and turn up at the local launching ramp and head an hour up river and start scooping up dead carp. Now, these are not freshly dead fish but rotten fish in a high state of decomposition. They are bloated, with the flesh falling apart and noxious liquids running out of them and they stink! An average small boat could take 200kgs of this disgusting slop into their boat before things get too dangerous so they then spend the 2 hours travelling back to the launching ramp as it’s now a full heavily laden boat. You will have 2 hours of this slop in the boat putrefying and liquefying into a noxious soup in the bottom of your boat and sloshing around your feet, you will be gagging and throwing up from the noxious fumes all the way home. Then you get back to the launching ramp where you will need to spend another hour bucketing this filth out of your boat (whilst retching), into a skip bin or onto the back of a truck for transport to a tip or burial pit somewhere away from civilization as the stink will make the air unbreathable.

After wasting the hour bucketing the putrid fish out of your boat – that’s it for the day. You take your boat home leaving a trail of filth dribbling out of the back of it. You spend the next week washing and disinfecting it and you vow never to be stupid enough to ever do that again. The NCCP may trick volunteers into doing this once but never a second time. Unless they are supplying full biohazard suits with an independent air supply and the boat then any significant cleanup by volunteers will not occur. Remember, two people in an average boat can take 200 kgs and there are a minimum of 2,000,000,000 Kgs of dead carp needing removal (that’s requires every person in Australia (man, woman, child to new born baby to get a boat and collect a boatload). Does that sound ludicrous to you? It does to me!

Then you must wonder, what happens to all this rotten, stinking dead fish? Most of the river launching ramps are in the towns. What do you do with a hundred truckload of stinking filth that is liquefying and draining out of the truck that must be driven through town to get to a disposal area.

Then there are the obvious predictions and warnings of mass carp deaths causing widespread black water events, which repeat on an annual basis as the carp population rebounds. Remember this is a deliberate release of the virus into the river system only, the million plus farm dams throughout rural Australia still have huge carp populations that will reinfest the river once a significant rainfall event occurs, plus the resistant carp that don’t die will breed producing more resistant offspring.

Decomposition is a natural process and part of the nutrient cycle releasing nutrients into the water column. Every carp that dies will release nutrients into the water column. Every carp will decompose on the bottom of the river, some carp will reach a putrification stage that results in floatation, the rest will just sit on the bottom and rot. This rapid decomposition of millions of tonnes of fish will result in dramatic water quality changes. Dissolved oxygen levels will plummet to zero, nitrogen and phosphorus levels will skyrocket. The whole river will become toxic and not only the carp will die but all native fish and crustacean. The whole inland river system ecology will collapse and be incapable of supporting marine life. The only thing that will bloom is algae and more than likely Blue Green Algae will bloom further toxifying the waterways.

The belief that removing the carp will allow our native species to thrive could be the exact opposite of what could happen. All our native species could more than likely be killed by this irresponsible release of the virus. The species that will survive the carp virus is carp which are a pest species, mainly because they out breed our native species and can tolerate polluted water. Will the NCCP ultimately result in the extermination of our native species to be replaced with sick carp in polluted water– great plan!

Then you have the question of what about the animals that drink from the toxic river? There are plenty of examples of carp dying in farm dams and then cattle that drink the water getting botulism and dying. Rotting organic matter feeds bacteria that can produce the toxin; when the whole river system becomes toxic what do all our native animals drink? Lets not only kill all our native fish but all the native birds, reptiles and kangaroos, etc.

Finally, as an aquaculture representative and a commercial fish and crayfish farmer I am disgusted that the Government is not offering financial compensation for those in the commercial aquaculture industry likely to be impacted by the release of this virus. Commercial farmers whose life’s work and livelihoods could be destroyed by this virus receive nothing in compensation. This is totally, unacceptable.

Silver Perch for sale at Sydney Fish Markets
Silver Perch for sale at Sydney Fish Markets

Australian Fish farmers, Yabby farmers, Carp fisherman, Carp processing industry, Koi Farmers and all the associated aquaculture and pond industry groups are being ignored and could all be destroyed by the NCCP. Then what happens to the 40,000 or more Australian Koi Carp hobbyists with their valuable collections of carp, many of which they have spent thousands of dollars buying and have been nurturing for 30 years or more, what about them!

Pet Koi Carp
Pet Koi Carp

Additionally, the experiment only ran for 28 days, the consequences of longer exposure are again unknown. The Government is being lobbied to initiate the release of this virus listed as a notifiable disease based on unreliable research. Australia is the only continent free of this disease, we currently enjoy the “Clean Green Image” for our aquaculture export produce. Introduction of the Carp Herpes Virus will irrevocably destroy Australia’s valuable reputation in world markets with incalculable negative repercussions for future exports.

When the release of the disease occurs and the whole mad project turns out to be an unmanageable disaster, how is the NCCP going to shut down the project or repair the damage? They can’t! We all suffer for all eternity because once released by the NCCP there is no going back, we are stuck with the problem forever.

I urge you all, investigate for yourself, and voice your concerns.

If the NCCP fails, then a big budget for signs like this will be needed
If the NCCP fails, then a big budget for signs like this will be needed