A Charles Sturt University associate professor says it’s better the devil or parasite you know than the one you don’t.
Shokoofeh Shamsi has urged for more research to be done before the carp – “water rabbits” – impacting the Murrumbidgee River are culled.
It comes after a $15 million federal funded project was approved in 2016, aiming to kill 95 per cent of carp in the river system across three decades.
But Professor Shamsi, who led the research that resulted in the discovery of a harmful parasite in carp across the Riverina, said the cull could create more problems than it solved.
This week, the university researcher was sponsored to attend a Science Meets Policy Makers event in Canberra, to speak face-to-face with environmental officials.
She joined other scientists and researchers, hoping to influence decision makers with their relevant knowledge, evidence and advice.
Professor Shamsi said the event was a great opportunity to raise the carp-culling issue.
She said the presence of this specific parasite in the Murray Darling Basin, could be attributed to birds who defalcate in the river system.
“What happens if a significant portion of the population of carp is removed too quickly?” Professor Shamsi said. “What happens to the parasite? It has great survival strategies.”
Professor Shamsi said the eggs of the parasite would still be in the water and searching for a new host.
“Larvae will hatch and they could infect almost any aquatic animal,” she said.
“We need to do more research to understand what happens to these larvae in the absence of carp.”
Professor Shamsi warned removing the fish could cause issues for other species and even other animals, including humans.
Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association president Debbie Buller said thorough research was being conducted and would continue before the “little monsters” were culled.
But she said something needed to be done and soon.
The Riverina farmer recalled a time when the water of the river used to run clear.
Ms Buller said now, the water was murky, dirty and of poor quality.
“It’s the single biggest environmental disaster we have in our river system,” Ms Buller said.
“The biggest culprit is the pest fish. We call them the underwater rabbit plague.”