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State Agency Wants To Turn Asian Carp Into Foodstuff

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Asian Carp

In concentrated numbers, the leaping Asian carp pose significant danger to boaters navigating the open rivers. But from a purely ecological standpoint, the non-native carp feed primarily on plankton and bacteria, collapsing the food chain. (Credit: CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Is the Asian carp an invasive species or a tasty delicacy?

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports, one state agency wants to take what’s now considered a threat to Illinois’ ecosystem, and turn it into nutritious food for hungry families.

The Asian Carp threat isn’t as pronounced as it once was, but the state’s Department of Natural Resources says there’s still enough to sell as food. Deputy Director Travis Loyd says the large fish is safer and healthier than more popular species like catfish.

“What happens in a fish is the fatty tissues in the belly store up PCBs or contaminants. This fish does not,” Loyd said. “This fish is a pure plankton eater. And so therefore, it doesn’t store that belly fat.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports

Loyd says the agency will spend the next few months developing a commercial fishing enterprise to cut down on the number of carp. Once they’re depleted, indigenous fish will be put back in the rivers so the industry can continue.

This initiative is one of many being floated to help Illinois better develop its own local food sources.

Loyd says the agency is running the initiative through its Target Hunger Now program. He admits the name “Asian carp” may turn some people off, and he says it’ll take a while to catch on. So he suggests a name change – maybe to something like “silver fin.”

The notion of turning the Asian carp into a foodstuff has been around for a while.

Last year, chef Phillip Foss, formerly of the Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer House Hilton, was serving up the fish last year in ceviche form, under the name “Shanghai bass.”

Meanwhile, the dispute continues about how to handle the threat to the Great Lakes from the Asian carp. Michigan and four other states have sued in federal court to close the locks on the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal to keep the fish out, move resisted by barge operators and businesses that rely on cargo shipping in the Chicago area. The U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. District Judge Robert Dow last year denied requests to close the locks immediately, but the lawsuit has gone forward.

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