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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

8 April 1999

FERAL FISH 'NET' ENVIRONMENTAL REWARDS


"Who would image feral fish could cause as much damage as rabbits in devastating native species and degrading our land and water resources. But that's what we are facing in our waterways from Victoria to Queensland," Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, said today.

"European Carp may be the fish most likely to grace the menu in Europe, but in Australia it is simply bad news. All of that may be set to change however, with demand for Carp fish leather, fish fertiliser, canned fish, pet food and bait for cray pots increasing. It's a case of, if you can't eradicate it, control it."

Mrs Stone said that in addition to being a new industry, innovative Carp fisheries and manufacturing operations in rural Victoria and New South Wales were also netting potentially big environmental rewards.

"European Carp have reached plague proportions in the Murray-Darling Basin. In some stretches of the Murray for example, Carp are up to 96% of the total fish community. They seem to be able to thrive in conditions other fish can't," Sharman Stone said.

Carp are bottom-stream bank feeders. Their habits cause turbidity, siltation, destruction of aquatic plants, undermine riverbank trees causing erosion, loss of native fish stocks, and increases in algal blooms.

"Carp are a destructive pest that thrive in disrupted river systems. It is vital that we get their numbers down."

A 1993 study by Wager and Jackson indicates that the spawning and feeding habits of Carp have contributed to the decline of endangered and vulnerable native fish such as the Trout Cod, Yarra Pygmy Perch, Dwarf Galaxias and Ewen Pygmy Perch.

Aquatic snails, tortoises and frogs also find their habitats significantly degraded by European Carp.

Mrs Stone said that Carp fishers had recognised the commercial potential of Carp and were now building valuable rural and export industries and, at the same time, giving native species breathing space while streams regenerated.

K&C Fisheries in Sale, Victoria, run by husband and wife team Keith and Cate Bell, have built a major Carp fishery business on the Gippsland lakes. KC Fisheries harvest and export Carp fillets to Poland as well as supplying Carp to domestic manufacturers for fertiliser, bait, tanning and pet food.

Four Cs, at Deniliquin on the River Murray, have built a modern Carp processing plant and are manufacturing fertiliser, eco-friendly foliants, bait and leather products under the 'Charlie Carp' brand name.

"Fish leather is particularly attractive, looking just like crocodile. Marketing Carp as a fine product, not a product with a problem, is an important part of the strategy," Sharman Stone said.

"The local and international demand for Carp and Carp products is great news for the health of our rivers and waterways. Reducing their numbers will help restore riverine plants and native fish stocks, reduce turbidity, siltation and erosion and repair the health of our rivers," Sharman Stone said.

European Carp were first introduced into Australia between 1850 and 1880 for ornamental and aquaculture purposes. Their rapid expansion followed an illegal release of the Boolara strain of Carp in the early 1960s in a tributary of the River Murray.

European Carp were declared a 'noxious fish' in Victoria in 1962.

"We have also made the Carp problem more difficult to tackle through inconsistent state legislation regarding Carp harvesting. In one state for example Carp can be caught and processed and in another, dead and dying Carp have to be left to rot," Mrs Stone said.

Mrs Stone said the Federal Government was committed to addressing the environmental problems caused by European Carp, providing funding through the Natural Heritage Trust.

"The Government has injected $9.75 million dollars in funding into the Fisheries Action Program and $13 million dollars into the Murray-Darling 2001 Fish Rehab Program."

"The funds are being used to support important research, planning and educational work being done by organisations such as the National Carp Task Force, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre and Carp Control Coordinating Group," Sharman Stone said.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia