Dead carp processing focus of National Carp Control Plan research project under Curtin University's Janet Howieson

Could something useful be done with millions of tonnes of dead carp?

It is Janet Howieson's job to find out.

The Curtin University microbiologist is leading one of many research projects  which will shape the National Carp Control Plan, and help decide whether it is feasible to release a carp herpes virus into the River Murray.

So far, her team has come up with several options.

At Port Lincoln, enzymes were used to break down 10 tonnes of carp into their constituent peptides and amino acids, which could be used for organic fertiliser or as an ingredient in animal or fish food.

"We are considering the feasibility of using carp waste as insect feed, specifically for the black soldier fly, which produces larvae that can be used as high-quality aquaculture feed," Dr Howieson said.

"Products from the insect larvae feeding trials will then be tested in fish-feeding trials to evaluate market opportunity."

Researchers are continuing to figure out how to use the leftover scales and bones.

In Victoria, two tonnes of dead carp were separated into solids, to be used as compost, and liquids, taken to a laboratory and used to produce biogas.

An extra 300 kilograms of carp was sent to a nearby worm farm.

Dr Howieson said her team would analyse the costs and benefits associated with each option, taking into account harvest strategies, logistical problems and fish quality.

Ideally, she said, she would be able to find solutions that could be implemented on a local, community-by-community scale.

If the NCCP were to go ahead and carp were to be killed en masse, coordinator Matt Barwick said, their bodies would have to be put to a productive use in an economically viable way.

"One of the most frequent comments received at our community consultation sessions relate to how we can best use potential carp biomass," he said.

"We are encouraging the public to ... share their thoughts and opinions.

"It's a collaborative plan and one that we're keen to ensure reflects the thoughts and opinions of all stakeholders."

The NCCP is also undertaking a number of other research projects to answer the many outstanding questions which remain about the possible release of a virus into the river.


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