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Migration: A Wing and a Prayer
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Food: Carp for Dinner
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Food
Carp for Dinner
Eating an invasive species.

Patagonian toothfish and slimehead are two fish that seemed destined to be left off menus in the United States—that is, until they were renamed Chilean sea bass and orange roughy. Similarly, rebranding Asian carp as “silverfin” just might help drive consumer demand—and reduce the invasive fish’s numbers in our waterways.

Chicago’s Supreme Lobster has been offering chefs Asian carp to see what delicious entrees they can create. And Louisiana wildlife officials are encouraging chefs to list carp as the more palatable “silverfin” on menus. “Everyone agrees the word carp has a negative connotation to diners in the U.S.,” says John Rogner, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, an agency charged with keeping the fish from taking over Lake Michigan. Yet, he says, they’re quite tasty. “I think they’re great smoked, and I’ve had them fried. I think the fish will sell itself once it’s given the chance.”

The carp—prolific reproducers with voracious appetites—were imported from Asia in the 1970s to devour algae in catfish ponds in the South. They escaped and began swimming up the Mississippi River, populating tributaries by outcompeting the native fish as they went. “There’s still a lot we need to learn about them, and it’s hard to speculate what they’re going to do in a lake ecosystem,” says Melanie Napoleon, senior director of Great Lakes Conservation at the Shedd Aquarium.

Officials recently found carp in Lake Michigan, so they’re employing underwater electric fences and poison to block the onslaught. Besides putting a dent in carp numbers by offering the fish in restaurants, a Chicago alderman has suggested feeding them to the poor. On top of that, Great Lakes companies like Schafer Fisheries are ramping up exports to Israel and China, where demand is high. The efforts are imperative because of the carp’s potentially catastrophic effect on the Great Lakes, says Rogner. “We can’t afford to roll the dice.”

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