In an effort to fight an invasive fish species in Australia, the government is planning on releasing the herpes virus into its waterways, hoping it will wipe out the common carp.
However, several scientists are questioning this method saying the species-specific virus may not be effective against the fish and also poses a serious risk to global food security.
Australia has long been trying to control the population of the common carp, an invasive species that was first introduced in the 1800s and now makes up for 80-90 per cent of the fish biomass in the nation’s largest river system.
This has caused ecological damage as carp are prolific breeders that compete with native fish. They also feed at the bottom of rivers, causing erosion and reducing water quality. The Australian government said it costs the country’s economy up to $500 million a year.
In 2016, the government allocated C$14 million in a plan to release the herpes virus into the nation’s largest river system to kill the carp species. It would then infect carp with a strain of herpes called CyHV-3, which damage the kidneys, skin and gills of fish and killing up to 95 per cent of the species.
The government said it conducted extensive research to make sure native fish, birds, amphibians and other species in the river system could not contract the virus.
Australian Science Minister, Christopher Pyne said the virus would have no impact on humans, but the clean-up would be costly. Thousands of carp are expected to die after the virus is released.