Friday, August 17, 2012

Might our Asian carp problem might be solved by catching them and making them into, uh, hot dogs?

Asian carp, large and voracious fish that are making their way up the Mississippi River system toward the Great Lakes, where they could ruin the fishery, have long vexed those who want to find ways to keep the population in check. Ash-har Quraishi reports for PBS NewsHour that scientists think it's time to call in those who have been hankering for years to help: the area's commercial fishermen. (Photo by Nerissa Michaels, Great Lakes Fishery Commission)

Vic Santucci, the Asian carp specialist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said that while "the ultimate goal is to fish down the populations to prevent ecological damage, there have to be enough Asian carp left to make the business lucrative for commercial fishermen." The important thing, notes Quarishi, is reducing the population to reduce pressure on young carp to get through the electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers' last line of defense.

Carp leap after getting electric shock
Philip Willink, a senior research biologist at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, said the consensus among scientists is that the barrier works really well but is probably not perfect. That's why you need the fishermen. So far, 10 commercial fishermen have been allowed to fish these backwaters accompanied by state biologists. But big fish don't always translate into big money. Willink explained, "One of the problems with getting people interested in eating Asian carp is they happen to have a lot of bones in some strange places, so they're really hard to filet." Also, carp are not popular in the U.S. but are a staple in most other nations.

Shafer Fisheries in Thompson, Ill., a company that has been looking for ways to process and market the carp to U.S. and foreign markets stepped up offered its already percolating ideas such as carp salami, bologna, jerky and, yes, hot dogs. So sure is Schafer of its enterprise that they launched a proposal two years ago for a processing plant expansion at Wickliffe, Ky., where the Ohio River enters the Mississippi. The plant would use its waste products to make organic farm fertilizer. Tax credits to build the plant received preliminary approval from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in June. Read the transcript of the NewsHour report here. Listen to the report here.

No comments: