Fishermen, farmers and environmentalists fear a “napal-like” poison could devastate native species, including Murray cod, if approved for use in New South Wales.
Most important points:
- There are fears Murray cod and native birds can be poisoned by mouse bait
- NSW seeks urgent approval to distribute a poison called bromodiolone to tackle the plague
- Regulator wants more details before deciding whether to use the poison for the first time since 2016
The state government is seeking permission from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to distribute 10,000 liters of bromadiolone in an effort to end the mouse infestation, which is now in its eighth month.
The APVMA says it needs more information about the NSW plan before it can determine whether the second-generation anticoagulant is safe to use.
Narromine farmer Stu Crawford has written to the regulatory agency asking them to consider the impact bromadiolone may have on native fish.
“I wanted to make sure they’d thought about that… to warn them that, yes, fish eat mice and that poison can enter the food chain as a result,” he said.
Narromine fisherman and agronomist Mick Harris said he had seen Murray cod eating mice in the Macquarie River.
“We’ve seen a lot of mice being regurgitated by fish when they’re caught, when they’re brought into the boat or released — so cod vomit or let dead mice regurgitate,” he said.
Harris said a friend recently caught and gutted a Murray cod with five mice.
“Without being too gory and too descriptive… five half-digested mice, they looked almost embalmed, that were found in that stomach when that fish was killed and gutted,” he said.
Mr Harris said controlling the mouse infestation was complex, but he hoped it could be done without harming native species.
“I’m on both sides of the fence here because mice are a huge problem and they damage livelihoods with crop damage and livestock feed being destroyed,” he said.
Napalm mice, napalm fish
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall recently referred to bromadiolone as the “equivalent of napping mice.”
Mr Marshall was not available for comment but said more than 400 farmers had registered with the government to use bromadiolone if it were approved.
Mel Gray of Healthy Rivers Dubbo said Mr Marshall’s plan was extremely concerning.
“We got Adam Marshall to say he’s going to napalm the mice,” she said.
“If this poison gets into the environment, you might as well be poisoning endangered and vulnerable species, such as Murray cod, a vulnerable species under federal law.
“There is no quick fix for this terrible mouse infestation – there is no magic bullet.
“We will have to attack it at different levels and in different ways.”
BirdLife Australia also appealed to the APVMA to reject the state government’s request, claiming that bromadiolone could devastate populations of native birds, particularly birds of prey.
“BirdLife recognizes that the current plague needs to be addressed and that people in these regions need a solution to this economic and social crisis, but it must not be at the expense of our ecological communities,” said spokeswoman Holly Parsons.
She said a better choice of bait was zinc phosphide, which is already used all over NSW.
“While this is not an ideal solution, it poses a much lower risk than a second generation rodenticide,” said Dr. parsons.
Lobbying group NSW Farmers said it had never asked for bromadiolone and had called on the government to give discounts of up to $25,000 per farmer to buy zinc phosphide.
“We’re racing to get 6 million acres of winter crop in the ground, we’re using 70 or 80 tons of zinc phosphide a day and we need the support for that,” said Vice President Xavier Martin.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack supported the APVMA in making the right decision.
“The APVMA will make sure that any bait, drug, or chemical used is safe…that’s what the APVMA does,” he said.
“I know the NSW government wouldn’t introduce anything that will affect communities, pets and livestock in the future — that’s what the APVMA does.”
If approved, it would be the first time bromadiolone has been authorized in Australia since 2016.