Status: Completed

Start date: 31 July 2020

Completion date: 30 June 2023

Project code: P01-B-003

Species: Tilapia

Download project report (PDF, 7.67 MB)


Tilapias aggressively compete with native fish and can dominate local fish communities – likely causing harmful impacts in Australia as populations expand. Selecting new biocontrol options to manage feral tilapia in Australia meant reviewing tilapia diseases, assessing their potential to control tilapia, and analysing the costs and benefits of the most likely agent.
Although 22 pathogens affect tilapia, all of the bacteria, fungi and parasites also affect fish other than tilapia. However, of the nine tilapia-affecting viruses, three are specific to that species – so the project team investigated those further.

Key achievements


  • Business case to advance selection and testing for Tilapia Biocontrol.
  • Review of Tilapia Pathogens for biocontrol suitability based on tank trials of two tilapia species.


  • Assessed 22 tilapia pathogens as potential biocontrol agents.


  • A cost-benefit analysis of total RD&E investment in proposed biocontrol(s) was positive.

Project team

Dr Agus Sunarto

Project Lead | CSIRO

Ellen Ariel


Bonnie Holmes


Jessica Grimm


Project partners

The project received funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

Project updates

February 2021

Tilapia Lake Virus has been considered as a potential candidate for biocontrol and has been proposed for further investigation. Another candidate for possible further investigation is the newly emerged tilapia parvovirus (TiPV), this virus has been reported to cause 60-70% mortality rate across six provinces in China, however the species specificity of TiPV has not been reported. All other potential pathogens assessed have been shown to not be species specific to tilapia and are therefore less suitable candidates for biocontrol.

A cost benefit analysis has commenced, this review seeks to identify the current distribution of tilapia in Australia, past and current management/control practices, existing impacts of tilapia on Australian waterways and the likely spread and impact in Australia based on current management systems.

Scientific publications & reports

Sunarto A, Grimm J, McColl K, Ariel E, Nair KK, Corbeil S, Hardaker T, Tizard M, Strive T and Homes B (2022) Bioprospecting for biocontrol agents for invasive tilapia in Australia Biological Control 174(105020).