National Carp Control Plan claims commercial fishing not viable are 'propaganda', says Coorong Wild Seafood's Tracy Hill

A claim that commercial fishing could never replace a carp virus is "propaganda", one of the Murray-Darling Basin's few carp fishers says.

Tracy Hill is co-owner of Coorong Wild Seafood, which has for years caught and filleted carp for serving at restaurants, markets and gourmet events.

She and her husband Glen have also extensively researched the economics of a possible carp fishery.

So she blasted a statement by the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) last month, which claimed that commercial fishing was not viable and could actually damage the environment.

"If they threw as much research at fishing as they did the virus, we'd have an up-and-running industry by now," she said.

"It's a labour-intensive fish, but we're already turning it from a 30-cents-a-kilogram fish into a $2 fish, with the aim of making it a $15 fish.

"There are $5 and $10 notes swimming around in the river system."

Claims too many native species would be caught up in a carp fishery were "absolute crap", she said.

When Lake Albert was fished down several years ago, she said, her company had had "zero" by-catch.

"When we did get something like a turtle in the net ... we cut it out," she said.

"By removing a large number of carp, the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks."

She lamented the fact the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation - the organisation behind the NCCP, and one funded in part by commercial fishers - continued to oppose the idea; and called for all NCCP research to be made public and independently peer-reviewed.

Glen and Tracy Hill, of Meningie, believe commercial carp fishing should not be ruled out yet. Photo: Coorong Wild Seafood/Facebook.

Glen and Tracy Hill, of Meningie, believe commercial carp fishing should not be ruled out yet. Photo: Coorong Wild Seafood/Facebook.

On July 18, the NCCP published modelling which reviewed cases from around the world where invasive fish were managed with commercial fishing, then simulated the likely effect of a comparable operation here.

Huge amounts quantities of fish would have to be removed for the strategy to succeed in the Murray-Darling, they found: 1400 tonnes in five years in just one of the river system's catchment areas.

That would overwhelm the domestic market.

Meanwhile, one of the key arguments in favour of a virus release has been disproven.

The release of a virus into the Murray-Darling Basin would not be simple or inexpensive, the NCCP said in an issues paper published last month.

Instead it would have to be closely monitored, with "active identification and targeting of carp aggregations for infection".

"A targeted release approach may mean that clean-up activities can be more focused, and potential water quality impacts more manageable, than initially expected; but that effective carp control could require more active management over longer timeframes," the paper said.

Scientists were still working to understand whether carp would develop immunity to the virus, the NCCP said.

The completed National Carp Control Plan will be delievered to the federal government in December.

It will answer two questions: whether a herpes virus could be used to control carp, and if so, how it could effectively be released.

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