Scientists meet in Peoria to discuss invasive fish problem
Written by Peoria Journal Star   
Wednesday, 23 August 2006 15:07

"Delicious" is how one fish biologist describes a solution to invasive Asian carp currently jeopardizing the $1.2 billion economic impact of the Illinois River.
More than 200 scientists from around the world convened in Peoria on Tuesday for a two-day conference on ways to understand and attack the problem.

The fish threaten habitats worldwide - except in Australia and Antarctica - because they multiply so rapidly that they take over the vegetative food chain, squeezing out native fish.

Unchecked, Asian carp could end jet skiing on the river and Peoria Lakes, experts warned. Water skiing may be even riskier.

"A person would have to be crazy, suicidal," fish biologist Duane Chapman said, noting the propensity of Asian carp to jump out of the water at the sound of a motor.

At 40 mph in a boat or on skis, hitting a 10- to 20-pound carp has broken noses, cracked teeth and knocked people unconscious.

"It's a matter of time before we have a fatality," said Robert Rice, president of The Native Fish Conservancy.

One solution: Eat it. If silver carp were renamed silver cod, it could become America's newest food fad, Rice said.

Chapman, research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said research findings are not yet conclusive, but carp may have more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon.

"Excellent eating," Chapman said. Major drawbacks are the negative perception of eating carp and difficulty with cleaning and deboning. He suggests people go to the Internet and Google "Carp Lemonade," to access an article he wrote for Missouri Conservationist. The article and accompanying photos explain how to clean and debone carp.

Chapman said pound for pound, he can clean and debone more carp than blue gill or crappie in 15 minutes. Because carp feeds low on the food chain, eating vegetation, they have lower concentrations of contaminants like mercury and lead found in the flesh of bottom feeders. Those contaminants also concentrate in older fish, and carp are fast growing and short lived.

Carp bones are large. Chapman recommends frying a fillet, breaking it in half, pulling the halves apart and eating one side bone-free.

"Then just grab the bones and pull them out at one time from the other half. It's easier than eating chicken wings," he said.

Despite his advocacy for eating carp, Chapman steadfastly declines to reveal his special carp ceviche recipe.

"No, no. That's a special recipe. But you don't need a special recipe for this fish. This fish is special any way you cook it," he said. "These fish are so good to eat, my big fear is that some day down the road they will be introduced into new places."

Blackened Asian carp is better than blackened redfish with a Paul Prudhomme blackening spice, he said.

Rice, who is also president of Carpbusters.com, sponsors carp bow-hunting competitions. A recent event in Iowa concluded with a harvest of 40,000 fish. Cash awards typically start at $1,000.

"We're looking for a sponsor to have a silver carp rodeo in Peoria," he said.

Anyone who doubts changing the name from silver carp to silver cod will make much difference need only consider how much orange roughy they've eaten. Orange roughy used to be called slimehead fish.

 

 
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