Controlling European carp is an important part of improving the Murray-Darling Basin environment, but should to be part of a broader strategy.
And this strategy needs to change from the ‘just add water’ approach that has dominated Basin Plan thinking for over a decade, according to the community-based Speak Up Campaign.
Its Deputy Chair Lloyd Polkinghorne has encouraged the federal government to make public the National Carp Control Plan, which was handed to the federal Agriculture Department this month but is being kept secret.
“Transparency in the process is important, and keeping the plan under lock and key is not going to encourage community debate on the issue,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
The plan is aimed at deciding whether or not a carp herpes virus should be released into Australian waterways in an effort to control the species, which have been labelled “the rabbits of the river”.
Mr Polkinghorne urged the government to look at a fresh and holistic approach to improving our river environs, and believes efforts to control carp can be a part of this.
“However, governments need to understand that carp are only part of the problem. Through the ‘just add water’ approach that has been adopted to this point, we have provided ideal breeding grounds for European carp and allowed them to further damage the environment that we are supposed to be protecting.
“As we water and restore wetlands, we are increasing carp numbers and this unintended consequence of environmental watering needs to be acknowledged and proactively addressed.
“With the right complementary measures in place, supported by adequate funding, we can protect our environment without providing ideal breeding grounds for European carp,” Mr Polkinghorne said.
These complementary measures are designed to improve environmental outcomes through activities such as installation of fishways and fish diversion screens, managing cold water pollution, habitat restoration and riparian management, as well as carp management.
Mr Polkinghorne said adequately funding these measures can play a critical role in delivering the Basin Plan’s promised ‘triple bottom line’ of achieving social, economic and environmental outcomes.
“In reality, the social and economic consequences of the Basin Plan have been ignored. Farmers and fishers, like others in the community, support the need for a plan but we want to see the ‘triple bottom line’ promise honoured. A good place to start would be controlling European carp as part of a renewed focus on complementary measures.
“We are hoping the Agriculture Minister will act quickly to release the National Carp Control Plan and work towards reducing carp numbers, which will in turn help our native fish,” Mr Polkinghorne said.