Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Putting invasive species on the menu is working to control some populations, but not others

The ongoing quest to control or eliminate invasive species is relevant across the nation, from the concern about Asian carp invading the Great Lakes to the overabundance of feral hogs running wild in nearly every state. Putting the creatures on the dinner menu is an increasingly popular method to control invasive species, Ramit Plushnick-Masti reports for The Associated Press. (Florida Sportsman photo: Lionfish)

"The idea gained momentum recently when lionfish, which invaded the Gulf of Mexico, were successfully marketed to restaurants and appear to be in decline," Plushnick-Masti writes. "The skilled predators damage reefs and devour native fish, and they are eaten only by sharks—or larger lionfish. People soon learned that beneath the lionfish’s spiky skin lies a buttery, flaky meat that is perfect for ceviche or as an alternative to lobster."

But while lionfish are supposed to be tasty, markets for feral hogs and Asian carp are harder to develop. Feral hogs reproduce so fast that eating them has little effect on the population, Plushnick-Masti writes. While carp is a delicacy in China, few Americans are interested in eating them. Duane Chapman, a research fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told Plushnick-Masti, “The fish are good eating if they’re healthy, which they’re not always. Here the fish are pretty much not edible because they’re so skinny.”

One invasive species that has been successfully marketed as food is the tiger prawn, which is similar to shrimp. The tiger prawn "has been found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where scientists fear it could harm the multimillion-dollar crab, shrimp and oyster markets." (Read more)

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