European Carp making a home in Snowy Monaro waters, but…

European or Common Carp. Photo: Flickr L Church via CSIRO
European or Common Carp. Photo: Flickr L Church via CSIRO

European Carp have been using the warmer water temperatures of spring to move across the Snowy Monaro, bringing their destructive ways into new habitats.

Since the 1850’s, Carp have been spreading out into low land waterways like the Murray-Darling Basin, but in the last ten years, these ferals have been moving into higher elevations, places once thought too cold for them.

Carp were introduced to Australia in an attempt to imitate a European environment – some nice cheese and wine could have done the job!

Despite being a native of Central Asia, carp are extensively farmed in Europe and the Middle East and are a popular angling fish in Europe. Eating carp is also a Christmas tradition in some cultures.

Carp in North America and Canada are also considered a significant pest.

Cooma Region Waterwatch Coordinator, Antia Brademann has eaten carp but doesn’t recommend it. Her interest is working with the community to build knowledge and share information and use it as part of locally tailored control programs.

Posted by Lauren Van Dyke on Sunday, 29 October 2017

 

The Carp Love 20 degrees campaign is key to those ambitions and is helping build a local profile of the fish. The program asks people to report carp sightings to the Feral Fish Scan website.

“Carp have a temperature trigger, so as water temperature gets to 20 degrees, that’s their spawning trigger, they need (and indeed love) that nice warm temperature,” Antia says.

Cooler water temperatures have perhaps slowed the pest’s progress across the Snowy Monaro, that is no longer the case with carp fanning out through the Upper Murrumbidgee River Catchment including the Bredbo and Numeralla Rivers, Cooma Creek, and into Canberra.

“They are moving, looking for suitable spawning habitat, “Antia says.

Locally that habitat looks different to what has been considered normal or ideal carp spawning areas – off stream wetlands, like those of the Lachlan River system, where large amounts of water gathers in shallow areas.

“In the Upper Murrumbidgee, we don’t have those big off stream wetlands, so we weren’t sure what the ideal spawning habitat looked like locally,” Antia says.

“Unfortunately from Carp Love 20 over the last three years, we are finding that carp spawning locally is opportunistic and variable.”

Carp spawning in the Upper Murrumbidgee catchment

Conditions are perfect to spot carp breeding. Anyone can do it! Waterwatch needs your help to better manage this pest species. #carplove20

Posted by ACT Landcare and Waterwatch on Thursday, 2 November 2017

 

A 6kg female can lay up to 1.5 million sticky eggs, attaching them to submerged vegetation or rocks in shallow water where they wait for a male to fertilise.

“We think that carp in this part of the world might have a number of spawning runs outside the traditional October to December window, because of the variability of local temperatures during spring,” Antia explains.

“And in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment, carp spawning is unlike the spawning of any other fish.

“You are listening for vigorous splashing, it will be very noticeable,” she says.

Fishing clubs at Numeralla and Bredbo have also been important players in the citizen science underway.

“We’ve found schools of carp that are less than 10cm long in Cooma Creek which tells us that’s a nursery habitat,” Antia says.

“By recording all these sightings and the anecdotal information, we are starting to build a picture of what’s happening in our catchment.”

Apart from scientific satisfaction, those taking part are also encouraged with free Carp Love 20 t-shirts!

Sadly, carp are now the most abundant large freshwater fish in some areas, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin. They have contributed to the degradation of large sections of natural aquatic ecosystems.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries points to the species destructive feeding practices leading to increased turbidity which in turn reduces light penetration, making it difficult for native fish that rely on sight to feed.

“Carp have this way of eating called, mumbling,” Anita says.

“They tear-out a bit of mud, and they suck out the macro-invertebrates and algae, and then they expel that mud out of their gills.”

Reduced light decreases plant growth, while suspended sediments smother plants and clog fishes’ gills.

Anita describes them as “ecosystem engineers” who undermine river banks to create the shallow sludgy environment they prefer.

Australia, meet the Caprinator

Australia – meet The Carpinator. He's going to rid our waterways of carp, by spreading the herpes virus.

Posted by Barnaby Joyce on Monday, 5 June 2017

 

But carp aren’t the only creatures responsible, poor catchment management practices by people have had a more substantial affect, carp have been clever and have been able to move into already degraded environments and build a lifestyle.

Many native species, including Golden Perch, Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish were already in decline before the introduction of these ferals into Australian waterways.

The presence of carp in terms of competition for food and the damage they inflict on freshwater habitats makes it difficult for native fish to re-establish.

In the man-made world, carp are also famous for choking water pumps and swamping irrigation channels.

The mapping of carp hotspots across the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment is important for understanding behaviour and identifying opportunities for control.

The annual Mud Marlin (AKA carp) Fishing Competition run by the Numeralla Fishing Club is a great example of the control effort to date. Over the 13 years of the event, thousands of carp have been fished out of local waterways and disposed of humanely.

Similar events have also been held at Bredbo and Cooma.

Habitat like fallen trees and stumps which were once common in the Numeralla River have been put back in place by local Landcare to provide valuable feeding and breeding areas, as well as protection against predators. Photo: Landcare Australia.
Habitat like fallen trees and stumps which were once common in the Numeralla River have been put back in place by local Landcare to provide valuable feeding and breeding areas, as well as protection against predators. Photo: Landcare Australia.

Local Landcare volunteers have then moved in to restore habitat that better supports restocking with native fish species like Murray Cod and Golden Perch.

Carp warriors across the Snowy Monaro are now gearing up for the next phase in their attack – the carp herpes virus, which will bring on a “carpageddon” according to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Matt Barwick, Coordinator of the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) says, “This virus is found in over 33 countries around the world and is specific to carp.”

“Research from the CSIRO over the last eight years has looked at all sorts of different fish species, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans – the only thing that gets disease from this virus is the common carp.”

The $11 million program will culminate with the release of the virus towards the end of 2018, the aim is to reduce carp density below levels known to cause environmental harm.

The NCCP is about to undertake a community briefing session flagging a possible local release. South East Local  Land Services is co-hosting a session at Goulburn Soldiers Club on Monday, December 18 from 6-8pm.

In the meantime, Antia Braddeman is calling on the community to continue making their contribution.

“Certainly if I am fishing I would not put a carp back, if people do catch carp we just ask that they humanely dispose of them,” Anita says.

“We are certainly finding out some interesting stuff about carp through community reports and observations, which helps with the control programs to come.”

Download the Feral Fish Scan App HERE to add your sightings to the database.

*About Regional stories happen because people become members – thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Robert Hartemink, Maureen Searson, Bruce Morrison and Kerry Newlin, Julie Klugman
Jeanie and David Leser, Maria Linkenbagh, Jenny and Arthur Robb, Nigel Catchlove, and Cathy Griff.

 

South East NSW makes its pitch for jobs from Canberra

Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet
Barnaby Joyce, pic from Sportsbet

South East NSW is pitching itself as a new home for a range of Federal Government departments.

Following the political and media stink around the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale, a Senate inquiry was established to investigate elements of the decision by Agriculture Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and local member for Armidale, the National’s Barnaby Joyce.

However, the work of the committee has been seen as bigger than just the issue of the APVMA as regional leaders look to fertilise a deeper discussion around moving public service jobs out of Canberra, all looking for a greater share of the $16.7 billion annual wages bill for their local economies.

Headed by Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration held hearings in Townsville last week. Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain was one of five local government officials from around New South Wales invited to phone in and take part in the discussion.

The invitation to speak came after the committee had considered written submissions.

Apart from Bega Valley Shire Council, Snowy Monaro and Eurobodalla councils also provided written advice to the committee, along with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.

All of the local submissions declared the region as an ideal location for Commonwealth investment and backed the idea of decentralisation.

Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council
Kristy McBain, pic from Bega Valley Shire Council

In his submission, Snowy Monaro Administrator Dean Lynch spoke of the boost such a move would be for the local economy and pointed to an available workforce.

Andrew Greenway, from Eurobodalla Shire, highlighted lifestyle advantages and the benefits that had for staff retention.

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain pointed to the region’s proximity to Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne and the private investment that would follow.

Senator McAllister says the terms of reference of her committee are narrow and focused on the APVMA decision, none the less local government and regional business organisations from around the country have seized on the opportunity to put a stake in the ground.

Among the 200 written submissions were councils from the Mallee, Longreach, Manning Valley, Colac, and the Spencer Gulf along with groups like Australian Wool Growers, NSW Business Chamber, the Winemakers Federation and the Country Women’s Association.

Listening to the live stream on Friday morning as Cr McBain spoke, Senator McAllister and fellow committee member Senator Bridget McKenzie seemed to encourage that wider discussion, moving beyond the APVMA.

All those on the call were asked if their region had been considered along with Armidale as a new base from the APVMA, all answered, “Not as far as I know” and the conversation quickly moved on.

Both senators went on to point to the separate but related process underway within the Turnbull Cabinet, where the Minster for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash is developing the Government’s broader decentralisation policy which will be released later this year.

Speaking at the National Press Club in April, Senator Nash said regional Australians deserved the jobs and opportunities that come with government agencies.

“When government invests in community it breeds confidence,” Senator Nash said.

Fiona Nash, pic from ABC
Fiona Nash, pic from ABC

She went on to explain the process all Federal ministers are currently involved in, which asks them to detail the departments, entities or functions that might be suitable for relocation to a regional area.

“We are not going to leave any stone unturned in looking for those agencies that could be relocated to the regions for the benefit of the regions,” Senator Nash told the Press Club.

Danielle Mulholland, President of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils and Mayor of Kyogle, told Senator McAllister that she is keen for the government to better definition ‘the regions’.

At the moment a regional community is seen as being one that lives at least 150km from a capital city.

“That’s a really loose definition,” Cr Mulholland said.

She fears authentic regional communities might miss out with a 150km starting line.

It’s a point echoed in the written submission from Snowy Monaro Regional Council and the Canberra Region Joint Organisation in regards to Cooma, which is just 116km from Canberra.

Dean Lynch from Snowy Monaro, in fact contends that regional areas around the ACT should be “initial priorities” and that Cooma’s proximity would “facilitate an easier transition from existing to new workplaces” for Commonwealth staff.

Cooma to Canberra, 116km.
Cooma to Canberra, 116km.

As the phone panel’s assessment of decentralisation evolved on Friday, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain said there also needed to be a synergy between the agency being relocated and the new host town for the process to be a win-win.

“From our point of view, it would have to be an agency or a department that had a natural fit with our area,” Cr McBain told the Senate committee.

From a Eurobodalla perspective, Business Development boss, Andrew Greenway believes that includes agencies responsible for regional communications, marine services, sciences and safety, regional development, regional transport, aged care, tourism, and education.

Both Snowy Monaro and Bega Valley also point to agriculture and environmental management services.

“We are going to have a big conversation around this over the next six months,” Senator McKenzie said.

All those on the call encouraged the two Senators in their suggestion that there should be a parliamentary committee formed with broader terms of reference than their own to fully develop a transparent and fair criteria and assessment process around decentralisation – the suggestion being, to avoid the allegation of political pork barrelling that has been leveled at Barnaby Joyce in the APVMA decision.

The findings of Senator McAllister’s committee will be delivered in June, it’s understood Turnbull Cabinet ministers have until August to complete their departmental reviews and report back to Senator Nash.

With 83% of Commonwealth employment located in Canberra or the five largest Australian cities, the potential of shifting some of that into regional areas is huge, hence the level of interest. In the Bega Valley’s submission, Cr McBain points to NSW Government data that estimates for each public sector job in a regional area, two jobs are created in the private sector.

However, “Government can’t fix everything,” warned Senator Nash at the Press Club, signaling that the Turnbull Government would be looking to partnerships with local government and the community more broadly as decentralisation rolls out.

It would appear that regional Australia is interested to know more and ready to play its part.

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council