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Plan to utilize Asian carp as food has merit

June 19, 2012
The Mining Journal

Where government initiatives have failed, human appetites may succeed.

Forward-thinking investors are planning an Asian carp processing plant in Grafton, Ill., a factory which could be operational by early next year culling the invasive species from two large nearby rivers.

Asian carp were imported decades ago to clear fish ponds and sewage treatment lagoons in the Deep South. The voratious easters migrated up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are now on the brink of entering the Great Lakes, where scientists say they could out-compete native fish for food.

The ecologically devastating species poses a real threat - environmental and financial. Some varieties of the Asian carp can grow to 4 feet long and weigh in at 100 pounds.

These monsters are ravenous eating machines, notorious for destroying the food chain and starving out other commercial and sport species in their range. They could put the entire Great Lakes fishery, with an estimated annual value of $7 billion, at risk.

DNA discovered last year beyond an electric barrier on Chicago shipping canals strongly suggest the carp are heading into Lake Michigan. The federal government has spent upwards of $100 million on the electric barrier and other countermeasures.

Now comes the first good news on the Asian carp front in a long time: a proposal for a $5.4-million venture to start clearing the Mississippi and Illinois rivers of the aquatic pests while supplying million of pounds of carp, fish meal and fish oil to clients in China, where the fish is a popular food.

"This is good for the whole region economically, and it gets rid of the damned fish," state Sen. Bill Haine from nearby Alton told The Associated Press.

We couldn't agree more. It's a potential free-market solution - or at least part of a solution - to a problem that's proven intractable.

Other imaginative entrepreneurs are trying to change our country's perception of the lowly carp - investigating ways to turn carp into hot dogs, jerky, bologna, taco meat and burgers.

It remains to be seen whether these ventures will be financially successful and, beyond that, successful in ridding our waterways of Asian carp.

But, if we can address the carp problem while creating a market for an export product to China, there will be some sweet irony in sending these invasive fish back to their homeland.



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