US trying to control increase of Asian Carp by harvesting

Global Business

In the U.S. state of Illinois, authorities said Asian carp numbers have increased at such a rapid rate that they’re now looking at some unconventional ways to control them. CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reported this story from Chicago.

US trying to control increase of Asian Carp by harvesting

In the U.S. state of Illinois, authorities said Asian carp numbers have increased at such a rapid rate that they’re now looking at some unconventional ways to control them. CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reported this story from Chicago.

James Schaefer is the third generation owner of Schaefer Fisheries, one of the largest distributors of Asian Carp in the United States. Asian carp is an invasive species the government is desperately trying to stop from infesting North America’s Great Lakes.

“We process about 30 million pounds of fish a year, of that fish that we process about 15 million is Asian carp. So that’s about 50 percent, that’s about half of my business,” Schaefer said.

Asian Carp is what turned this small business that was selling fish in the U.S. into a global multi-million company, with distribution in 16 countries.

The owners believe Asian carp saved the Midwest fishing industry from the brink of disaster.

But where Schaefer sees a boon in the big fish, government officials and biologists at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium see a threat.

They were brought to the U.S. from Asia in the 1970s to control algae build-up in sewage treatment plants. But they escaped almost immediately and started rapidly reproducing in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

“As they spread throughout the system, they sort of crowded out a number of our native fish and compete for food with a lot of our native fish and that’s the main problem right there. They are replacing some of our native fish,” Phil Willink, senior research biologist at Shedd Aquarium said.

Authorities are even talking about building a permanent $18 billion barrier to block parts of Chicago’s canal system and protect the Lakes. But the plan has a major flaw.

“If you try to separate the basin you have to manage the flooding. There is, whenever it rains, a lot of water comes into Chicago river. And you have to think about drinking water. The whole canal was built to get pollution away from our drinking water supply of Lake Michigan,” Kevin Irons at Illinois Department of Natural Resource said.

Irons believed a better option could be to keep fishing them out, harvesting up to 60 million pounds a year, from the Illinois river alone.

Dirk Fucik is doing his part in to encourage eating the fish out of existence. He sells carp burgers at his fish shop in Chicago, giving away free samples every Saturday. Though, he admitted Asian carp can be a tough sell.

“The downside with all carp is that it’s very bony. Unfortunately, the American public likes no bones in anything. It’s really a good tasting fish, you just have to get past the ugly face and the bones. It’s really a tasty fish, healthier for you than popular tilapia,” Fucik said.

In the U.S., the Schaefers sell Asian carp mostly to ethnic communities for Chinese New Year and Jewish holidays. And with all those fish out there expected to keep reproducing, they are hoping the wider American public develops a taste for Asian carp as well.