THE VINE JANUARY 11, 2010
Last week, The New York Times had a great piece about how Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River and are threatening to invade Lake Michigan. If that happens, the Great Lakes would be screwed—the carp would overrun the ecosystem, eat all the food, and devastate the area's $7 billion fishing industry. So far, the carp haven't made it past electric barriers in Illinois, but they're coming unnervingly close, and states like Michigan and Wisconsin are suing to shut down Chicago waterways until a good solution can be found. (Illinois isn't a fan of this idea.)
Anyway, that brings up an offbeat suggestion, courtesy of Louisiana state: Why don't we just start eating Asian carp? Sure, the carp isn't a hit with diners, but neither was the Patagonian toothfish—until some clever marketer rebranded it "Chilean seabass" and it became so popular that it's now severely overfished. Same thing happened to the slimehead when it was recast as "orange roughy." If there's one thing humans are good at, it's scarfing down fish so quickly that stocks collapse. So why not put this superpower to good use and rebrand the Asian carp something like the "silverfin"?
Alas, as NRDC's Josh Mogerman points out, that won't be enough to save the Great Lakes. The Asian carp are now just six miles from Lake Michigan; not enough time for a "silverfin sushi" campaign to work its magic. Plus, there are downsides to having a new industry with a vested interest in keeping Asian carp around, given that they're causing chaos up and down the Mississippi. (The carp was brought to the United States in the 1970s to control algae in aquaculture ponds, but they soon escaped and now pretty much own big chunks of the river.) Guess we're back to closing down the Chicago waterways.
P.S. Check out this video of Asian silver carp leaping high out of the water—something they have a habit of doing when startled. It's a cool trick, except that the fish can weigh up to 40 pounds and have been known to smash into the faces of unsuspecting boaters and water-skiiers.
(Flickr photo credit: kate.gardiner)