A VIRUS that could wipe out 80-90 per cent of Australia's carp population is undergoing trials in Victoria.
CSIRO researchers working at Geelong's high-security animal health laboratories are testing the koi herpes virus against carp, native fish and other non-target species.
The virus was first detected in Israel in 1998 and has since spread across the globe, leaving millions of rotting carp in its wake.
When the virus hit Japan in 2003, authorities were forced to clean up thousands of tonnes of dead carp from rivers and lakes.
CSIRO and the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre are already developing a clean-up strategy, given the risk of clogging Australian waterways with tens of thousands of tonnes of rotten carp.
CRC chief executive Andreas Glanznig said clean-up teams and pre-dug pits would have to be established before the virus could be released.
"The herpes virus hits their gills and then spreads to other organs," Dr Glanznig said.
"Clinical symptoms appear in the morning and they're dead by the evening."
CRC carp program leader Wayne Fulton said the virus was specific to common carp, with no other fish known to be affected, even the closely related goldfish.
"Australia does not have any native species that are closely related to carp," Mr Fulton said.
CSIRO has already tested and cleared the virus against Murray cod, golden and silver perch, with trout and galaxids the next species to be tested.
Dr Glanznig said the research phase of the program should be completed in 2015, with registration and Federal Government approval likely to take an additional two years.
He said the CRC needed to assess the timing and best sites for release of the virus to maximise its impact.
The recent floods have triggered an explosion in the Murray Darling Basin's carp population, which Dr Glanznig said had risen by 4000 per cent at some locations.
Mr Fulton said the virus offered one of the greatest opportunities to revive the basin's ecology, given carp accounted for 90 per cent of the biomass in some rivers and lakes.