PEORIA, Ill. - Greg Dabbs says it's time to dispense with the hysteria over the proliferation of Asian carp in the Illinois River and start making money with the invasive species.
Dabbs, a 45-year-old commercial fisherman who lives in Peoria, said the idea of processing fish that's taken over the river only makes sense.
"This is not a new idea or business model. It's being used all the time in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska," he said.
Researchers at Southern Illinois University have estimated that Asian carp now makes up 60 percent of aquatic life in the Illinois River.
Dabbs isn't short on ideas about what to do with all that life.
"You could turn the fish into fertilizer. You could separate the oil from the fish like they do in Alaska," he said.
Fish also could be flash frozen for human consumption, said Dabbs, who also throws out the possibility of carp caviar.
He also wants to throw out something else.
"We need to give up on this idea of shipping carp to China. At least four different attempts have been made that I know about and they just haven't worked out," he said, citing red tape and China's reluctance to pay a premium for fish shipped across the Pacific.
Helping Dabbs crack the carp market is John Hamann, rural economic development director for Peoria County. "There ought to be something we can do with this abundance of fish that would help people in this area and create income and jobs."
Hamann said he took part in economic development meetings held over the past year by Focus Forward Central Illinois.
"I attended all the asset-mapping sessions. It seemed that at every one of them somebody mentioned Asian carp," he said.
Hamann has organized a group with local, state and regional representation that looks to meet next month to find economic uses for the fish. While ideas are always welcome, money is the real need, he said.
"The problem is that we can't get any (financial) help from the state or federal government to develop anything here (in central Illinois) because it's all going north," said Hamann.