Australia Will Fight its Pesky Fish Population With £7m Worth of Herpes 

By Sophie Kleeman on at

Australia has a carp problem. According to Barnaby Joyce, the country’s minister for agriculture and water resources, managing the fish — also known as “Australia’s worst freshwater aquatic pest” — costs the equivalent of £260 million per year.

Researchers, however, have developed a novel way of dealing with the problem: a carp-specific herpes virus called Cyprinid herpesvirus. And on Sunday, the government announced that it would put roughly £7.5m of its annual budget toward using the virus to eradicate the carp population.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister for the environment, noted the funding included plans to release the virus by the end of 2018. It will first be released into the Murray-Darling Basin, the output of which yields billions of pounds a year, according to the government. Hunt says that carp have endangered many native fish species that live in the Basin.

“Anyone who loves the Murray knows what damage the carp have caused to the river environment over many years,” Christopher Pyne, the minister for industry, innovation and science, said in a press release.

The Guardian reports that researchers at CSIRO, the government’s scientific research agency, has been working toward a herpes cure (but not the humans kind) for about seven years. The researchers say the virus isn’t harmful to other species of fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, which makes them “confident” it won’t harm humans.

As for what the carp can expect when they come into contact with the virus, it doesn’t sound great. The herpes virus attacks the skin and kidneys and typically kills the fish in a day. As for disposal, the researchers said that the virus will likely target juvenile populations of carp, which will then be picked up by birds.

While at least one fisherman is concerned about the cleanup, Christopher Pyne proposed a few solutions.

“We’re going to either turn them into fertiliser, or pet food maybe, or dig enormous holes and put them in there,” he said, according to Australia’s ABC News.

Australia’s cats must be thrilled. [The Guardian]