Holy Carp!

When I was home in Indiana for the holidays my Dad talked a about an invasive species that he had read about called the Asian Carp which has been making its way up the Mississippi River and its tributaries, threatening to invade the Great Lakes. The only thing keeping the carp from making its way into Lake Michigan is an underwater electronic barrier that has to be re-funded every year. The bummer is that there is the ever-present threat that some short-sighted committee with revoke the funding which would be a disaster. Check out the following videos to get an idea of just how big of a disaster I'm talking about.

(The second part is much more entertaining/ridiculous.)

Part 1

Part 2

On the good side though, an emerging market for the fish has evolved that may take some of the urgency out of the problem. From Andrew's fav, NPR:

The fish weigh at least 15-to-25 pounds each, and some are much larger. They fetch about 14 cents a pound. That's not a lot, but Briney says the huge volume of carp he catches more than makes up for the low price-per-pound. Since he started fishing for carp, Briney says he's doubled his income.

Briney used to think carp were ugly. "But now, I think they look pretty good," he says, laughing, noting that they bring "about $4 a fish."

A Growing Market

On a recent day, Briney and his stepson, Jeremy Fisher, took in about 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of Asian carp from the Illinois River. Their catch ended up at Schafer Fisheries, a processing plant in Thomson, Ill.

Plant owner Mike Schafer has spent the last seven years developing a market for Asian carp. He says his company sells more than 2 million pounds each year -- mostly in Asian-American communities in California, New York and Chicago.

The carp now account for 20-30 percent of Schafer's business. He hopes that a new flash freezer he invested in will help him start selling to China and other Asian markets.

Illinois State Senator Mike Jacobs also wants to expand the market for Asian carp. For one thing, he'd like to see it on the menu in state prisons.

"Some people say that smoked, it's better than salmon," Jacobs says of Asian carp's taste. But the name "carp" is likely putting non-ethnic Americans off trying the fish, he says.

"Chilean Sea Bass wasn't always known as Chilean Sea Bass," Jacobs notes. "There was a time it was known as a Patagonian Toothfish, and people wouldn't eat it."

His suggested name-change? "I'm from Rock Island, so I'm thinking of 'Rock Island Sole,'" Jacobs muses. "Schafer Fisheries is near Savanna, [Ill.,] so Savanna Sole might work, too."

Update: If you have to see anything, scroll to minute 2:45 of the second video. It's worth it.

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