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Cleaning up Australia's waterways

1 May 2016

Joint media release with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, and the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston

The Australian Government will launch a nationally coordinated approach to eradicating Australia’s worst freshwater aquatic pest, the common carp, through a $15 million National Carp Control Plan contained in this year’s budget.

The plan includes the staged release of the carp control virus, beginning in the Murray Darling Basin, and other complementary measures to create a long term solution to the issue of the carp pest.

A joint ministerial taskforce will finalise the national plan and includes the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce and the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt.

Minister Pyne said the $15 million plan would be designed in conjunction with state and territory governments to maximise the impact of biological controls on carp populations while minimising disruption to industries, communities and the environment.

“The common carp is a nasty pest in our waterways and makes up 80 per cent of fish biomass in the Murray Darling Basin,” Mr Pyne said.

“Anyone who loves the Murray knows what damage the carp have caused to the river environment over many years.

“The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and the CSIRO have made significant progress evaluating a viral biological control agent, we know that it works, we know it’s completely safe, now we need to plan the best way to roll it out.

“It’s important to remember that while the virus will have a significant immediate and dramatic impact on populations, there will need to be an ongoing process to achieve complete success."

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce said the economic impact of carp is estimated at up to $500 million a year, mostly in regional Australia, and especially along the Murray River.

“Carp are a serious problem, in particular along the Murray River, and current control measures, including trapping, commercial fishing and exclusion, are expensive and largely ineffective at controlling carp over large areas or for any length of time,” Mr Joyce said.

“This initiative will provide a long term solution and has already received strong stakeholder support from groups including irrigators, recreational fishing organisations and conservation groups.

“The Coalition Government has long supported an adaptive approach to environmental management in the Murray-Darling Basin that goes beyond looking solely at water in and water out,” he said.

The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said carp are a pest and threaten others species by making water turbid, causing erosion and out-competing native fish for food and resources.

“Many native fish species in the Murray Darling Basin are listed as vulnerable or threatened with extinction in large part due to the carp pest,” Mr Hunt said.

“The Ministerial taskforce, part of today’s announcement, will oversee the development of a whole of government National Carp Control Plan managed by a national coordinator with the intention of releasing the carp control virus by the end of 2018,” he said.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and South Australian Senator Anne Ruston said that today's announcement was a great step forward in improving confidence and economic prosperity in communities along the Murray Darling Basin.

"Today's announcement is welcomed by a huge cross section of stakeholders, and is undoubtedly the long term solution that communities along the Murray Darling Basin have been asking for."

"Growing up in the Riverland, I can certainly say that this is nothing short of a huge win for South Australian irrigators, farmers and recreational fishers who rely so heavily on the Murray Darling Basin."

The plan will include work to ensure continued community awareness of the carp control program, monitoring the effects of the virus after release, opportunities to use harvested carp biomass and measures to protect infrastructure affected.

For more information please go to: www.agriculture.gov.au/carp-plan

Media contacts: Mr Pyne's office 02 6277 7070, pynemedia [at] industry.gov.au

Department media: media [at] industry.gov.au