Aussies Prepare CyHV3 Herbes Virus To Kill Off Carp Plague

But Australia’s Track Record on Invasive Species Is Like A Road Runner Cartoon
Invasive Carp

Asian carp on the Illinois River leap about in reaction to a sound stimulus from officials

Invasive carp – a very large, nasty fish that has become a menace to ecosystems around the world – is causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in the Murray Darling River System in Australia. The fish now comprise about 80% of the fish in the river system, and mess up the ecosystem to the point that they are blamed for causing massive toxic algae incursions. The are so aggressive that they erode the river banks and contaminate the water used to irrigate crops.

As a highly proactive nation, Australia is now reported by the Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2016) to be considering introducing a herpes-type virus into the carp population to kill off the “cockroaches of the waterways.” If effective, the pathogen will kill of about 80% of the carp, while leaving everything else untouched.

This may or may not be a good idea. While on the one hand something clearly needs to be done, the history of human intervention in animal population control is spotty, which is to say, usually disastrous.

Australia has a long history of introducing alien species to its ecosphere.  Rabbits and red foxes were introduced in the nineteenth century for the purposes of sport hunting. Unfortunately, the rabbit ate everything in sight and the foxes had their own ideas about sport hunting.  The foxes are blamed for exterminating a number of native species.

Cane toad

Asian carp on the Illinois River leap about in reaction to a sound stimulus from officials

But perhaps the most infamous is the 1935 introduction of the South American cane toad, which were brought in to eat up the beetles that were eating up the sugar crops. The very large toads showed no interest in the beetles, but wiped out even more bird and animal species previously native only to Australia.

Here’s hoping things go better this time.

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