PIAA Position Statement on Proposed Release of Koi Herpes Virus
The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) supports the concept of removing the invasive European or common carp (Cyprinus carpio) from Australia’s waterways. If this is achieved, it will hopefully lead to a rejuvenation of once mighty and iconic water body’s. However, the PIAA does not support the proposed method in which a virus (Koi Herpes Virus or KHV) will be released into the waterway as a mechanism of killing the carp. KHV is an OIE (Animal World Health Organisation) listed disease of serious international concern and is a worldwide notifiable virus. Australia’s history of introducing non-native animals and pathogens is anything but good.
The release of KHV will have a major impact on the ornamental Koi industry in New South Wales with the possibility of spreading into other jurisdictions. Koi, whilst they are the same species as common carp, have been bred for centuries, into various colourful strains and are kept by hobbyists and as pets and often command very high price tags. Where this virus occurs in other parts of the world, it has had a major impact on Koi, causing significant deaths. There is no effective vaccine available for Koi as there was when the Rabbit calicivirus was released (it actually escaped from the supposedly secure research laboratory facility) in 1995. Therefore by releasing KHV, people’s pets and an entire Koi industry will be wiped out. A current estimate of the Koi hobby and industry in Australia is approximately $150 million and so it is sizeable.
Another concern for our industry is that while the virus currently only affects carp, it could mutate and impact goldfish. Goldfish are the most widely kept species, and should the virus impact these fish, the impact to the aquarium industry would be extremely damaging.
The PIAA’s other major concern is the impact on the river ecosystem that will occur due to an undetermined and significant volume of dead carp that will result when releasing this virus. As these dead carp decay they will use up large amounts of oxygen which may significantly impact on native species resulting in possible deaths to the fish the project is intentionally trying to save. There will be the need for significant clean up teams which we believe the Government has underestimated. It is also suggested that the release of KHV will not produce 100% removal of carp and the survivors will then build up immunity to the virus.
The PIAA understands the negative costs and losses to other industries and the environment as a result of these common carp, but we support an alternate method. PIAA supports the idea of a “daughter-less” carp program which over time will have a similar effect in which the carp will be ‘removed’ from the system. This poses no risk to the ornamental koi industry and because the numbers of carp will gradually decrease, there will be no mass clean up required or potential environmental disaster.