Minnesota researchers hope to use fish virus against carp
ST. PAUL, Minn. — University of Minnesota researchers may be able to use a recent fish virus outbreak to combat an invasive species plaguing state lakes.
Researchers with the university’s Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center are studying Koi herpesvirus to see if it can be used to control the invasive carp population, Minnesota Daily reported.
“We want to find ways to kill carp and zebra mussels and all these invasive species,” said MAISRC Director Nick Phelps. “We started this particular project in 2014 – went two years and didn’t see (the virus) anywhere, then saw it in seven to eight lakes in a matter of a month and a half.”
The center first confirmed a naturally-occurring case of the virus in early August. Researchers confirmed several more cases in early October.
Carp have been in the area for more than 180 years and can disturb lake environments, said Isaiah Tolo a first-year doctoral student with the research center.
“It’s a big problem here,” Tolo said.
Phelps said his team hopes to release the virus into Minnesota lakes to stop the spread of invasive carp. Koi fish are a subspecies of common carp so they’re both susceptible to the virus. The disease won’t harm other fish because it specifically targets carp, he said.
“We’ve never found it in a walleye, musky or bait fish,” Phelps said.
Phelps said Australian researchers have spent a decade looking into bio-control to eliminate carp. Australian researchers plan to release the virus into the environment next year, he said.
“It’ll be the first time that pathogens will be used for aquatic animal control,” he said. “They’re pushing the envelope a bit, so we’re sitting back and learning what we can from that experiment.”