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To beat the carp, eat the carp

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service team from Columbia, Mo., spent three days filling containers with carp at Allen Park in South Ottawa in August. Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti took part in a luncheon conference in Champaign pitching the invasive fish as a food source.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service team from Columbia, Mo., spent three days filling containers with carp at Allen Park in South Ottawa in August. Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti took part in a luncheon conference in Champaign pitching the invasive fish as a food source.

A new plan to control Asian carp numbers requires transferring the fish from the river to the plate.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti joined partners from Illinois and Louisiana at a luncheon Monday in Champaign to showcase and encourage the human consumption of Asian carp as a healthy food source.

Established a few years ago, this project has been an ongoing alliance among the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the University of Illinois, which has served as a liaison between the two states. In addition to increasing public awareness, the project also focuses on helping and encouraging fishermen to sell the fish.

In an event, “Catch to Course,” hosted by the University of Illinois, Sanguinetti joined partners, experts, and stakeholders at a luncheon where chefs showcased three dishes made of Asian carp, also known as silverfin.

According to experts, Asian carp can be a great source of food, because it is low in sodium as well as a good source of vitamin B12, selenium, protein, phosphorous and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Chef Philippe Parola of Louisiana, and Dawn Aubrey, associate director of Housing for Dining Services at the University of Illinois, have been involved in the project by raising awareness and encouraging ideas and actions for “catching” Asian carp and then developing into multiple “courses” and cuisines.

“We are very proud of the hard work our partners have done to educate the public about the delicious and healthy consumption of Asian carp and to help fishermen to sell it and become financially viable and increase its demand,” Sanguinetti said in a press statement. “This effort will potentially help grow our fishery industry and create more jobs while at the same time reduce the population of invasive Asian carp and help prevent further spread.”
Sanguinetti also took a ride on the twin-screw tugboat "Windy City" while it plied the Illinois River at Ottawa in November. Sanguinetti was considering a new carp control system at the time to prevent Asian carp in the Illinois River from invading the Great Lakes. Sanguinetti questioned whether the electric barrier, complete with complex noise and water jets, was the correct approach at the time.

While the leading edge of Asian carp fish migration has not moved since 1991, the state of Illinois in partnership with commercial fishermen and numerous stakeholders from the local, state and federal government continue to develop strategies to keep this invasive species from the Great Lakes. There is potential to expand Asian carp consumption in the United States — which will not only assist in efforts to keep these fish out of the Great Lakes, but provide a healthy food source, pitched officials at the showcase.

According to Dan Stephenson, Chief of Fisheries of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the invasive Asian carp are now found in, or have access to, most of the rivers and streams between the Appalachians and the Rockies and have become in many cases the most dominant species in those waterways.

“We, at the IDNR, believe the best way to have a positive effect on our aquatic resources is to remove the invasive fish through commercial means and sell them to the markets for human consumption, understanding additional by-products will also be valuable as other protein products, liquid fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, or as high-quality pet treats and feeds,” Stephenson said.

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