Carping on about a prolific menace to native life in rivers

2010 Carp Muster organiser Rex Clarke (left) and weigh master Anthony Martin with carp caught in the Richmond River.
2010 Carp Muster organiser Rex Clarke (left) and weigh master Anthony Martin with carp caught in the Richmond River. Doug Eaton

CARP are far more abundant and widespread in local waterways than most people might think, and are capable of doing considerable damage to native life in our rivers.

Since their often deliberate introduction in the 1980s and 1990s, carp have proliferated in local waterways and they now number many tens of thousands.

And it seems there is very little we can do to control their numbers.

While European carp have become the scourge of western rivers in the past 40 years, it's their whiskerless cousins, the 'ornamental' koi carp, that have prospered in the Richmond and nearby catchments.

The major infestations started around Iron Pot Creek near Kyogle, Horseshoe Lagoon near Casino; the Richmond River from Tatham downstream to Broadwater; and Pelican, Bungawalbyn and Emigrant creeks.

Fisheries prosecuted a koi farm at Fernleigh in the late 1980s for having unscreened overflow ponds and Emigrant Creek thus was considered a major epicentre.

The 2008 floods seemed to trigger a massive expansion of carp.

Two decades ago, it was unusual to even see one carp while searching the rivers and creeks for bass. Now it's almost impossible to avoid catching at least one.

And these are no longer 'freshwater' fish.

It's not uncommon to catch flathead, school mulloway, bream, whiting and carp in the same stretch of water.

Most people think of carp as vegetarians, hoovering the bottom and muddying the waters as they go. These fish take baits like earthworms, corn kernels and berries.

That vego reputation is changing and these fish now regularly attack lures like soft plastics, crankbaits, metal blades and even surface lures.

So these carp are now competing with native species for the same food sources.

At present there is no method to control them.

The efficacy of public 'carp muster' fish-outs is put at 0.05% and their major benefit is as public awareness exercises.

Even heavy netting is only a short-term solution, as the population quickly recovers.

High-tech 'silver bullet' solutions are still some way off.

The daughterless carp gene-modification program has been hit by sporadic funding cuts and there are strong doubts that the koi herpes virus will have any effect on the koi-goldfish hybrids in our waters.

The main local hope in the short term seems to lie in identifying carp breeding hotspots and heavily netting them during breeding season.

Either that or breed up populations of bull sharks or crocodiles!

Topics:  carp environment

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