A Use for Asian Carp – Feed China

Chicago Lock and City Skyline

Asian carp has gained some notoriety in the United States as an invasive species and general pest. It’s proven difficult to eradicate and it’s poised to enter the Great Lakes. It seems it’s here to stay, so what to do with it? Feed China.

Asian carp is a sturdy fish that survives well in the Mississippi River and its watershed. It competes for limited resources with native and game fish, as well as other water species. So far, Asian carp hasn’t managed to establish a population in the Great Lakes, but it’s only a matter of time. The only certain way to keep the fish from moving into the Great Lakes would be to cut off the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes, but shipping companies aren’t keen on that idea.

Illinois has come up with another solution – feed China. Eating invasive species isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that has yet to take off in the U.S. The Asian carp is a popular fish in China, but difficult to come by. The Illinois Department of Commerce has invested $10 million in the carp fisheries in the last two years. That investment is helping to build carp processing plants and make deals with Chinese businesses who would import the fish.

The Asian carp industry could pull in more than 100 million pounds of the fish in just one year. The fish would then be shipped to markets in China.

The idea isn’t popular with everyone. The other states around the Great Lakes want to prevent the Asian carp from reaching the lakes – something they can’t do without Chicago’s help. Enormous efforts are being put into restoring the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to produce a plan by 2013 that will limit the risk to the Great Lakes. In the meantime, the fisheries will provide up to 200 jobs for Illinois processors.

Chicago lock and city skyline photo via Shutterstock

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Author: Heather Carr

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