Illinois has come up with a straightforward solution to its Asian carp problem: fishing.
“It’s simple but it’s exciting to see it work,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, who chairs the state’s river coordinating councils.
The state is encouraging businesses to fish for the carp by promoting markets for them. The fish are being touted as a high protein meal for foreign and domestic markets. But don’t look for “Asian Carp” on a local menu – it’s been rebranded as “Silver Fin.”
Asian carp are also being used to provide meals through the “Target Hunger Now!” campaign in Illinois, and the state has an agreement to harvest and deliver 30 million pounds of Asian carp to a Chinese meat processing plant.
In addition, the carp can be used to feed animals or they can be converted to a fertilizer.
Simon said Asian carp are a threat to the state’s rivers and lakes and the fish native to the state.
“As humans we have driven many species to the edge of extinction – if not extinction – by overconsumption. It’s time to give that a try for Asian carp,” Simon said.
Simon said researcher James Garvey of SIU-Carbondale found that Asian carp now make up about 63% of all fish biomass in the Illinois River.
Simon said fishing might not eliminate Asian carp but it could thin their numbers enough to prevent them from migrating. She said the carp are powerful swimmers and are known to migrate when they overpopulate an area.
Asian carp not only cause environmental problems but they pose a bit of risk to sportsmen and recreational boaters. The fish – which can grow to a large size -- are easily startled and leap out of the water when a boat engine passes over them, potentially causing an injury to someone on a boat.