But the team members’ advice for controlling the species goes something like this: “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em.”
James Garvey, director of the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIU Carbondale, has led the effort that for the last 18 months to quantify and solve the Asian carp problem in the state’s rivers. In 2010, the University received a contract worth $1.1 million to find ways to eradicate the fish through commercial fishing and other means.
The grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources funded multiple studies and resulted in a report released last week titled “Fishing Down the Bighead and Silver Carps:
“We basically found that harvesting this fish for commercial purposes will work, and that there is a market among consumers for this fish,” Garvey said. “There are other challenges, such as processing the fish, but we believe it can be done.”
The research represents the most comprehensive estimate of a main-channel fish assemblage in history using research-grade, down-looking hydroacoustics coupled with other sampling techniques, Garvey said. The study also looked at mortality and reproductive potential, as well as the quality of the meat and potential commercial market for the fish.
The hydro-acoustic surveys revealed that about 2,800 Asian carp live in each mile. Tagging the fish also showed the larger fish moved hundreds of miles up and down the river, though the researchers aren’t yet sure why.
“As is always the case with science, you often have more questions than answers,” Garvey said. “We saw a large movement corresponding with the floods last year, which was fascinating. But we don’t what exactly triggered them to do that. And we don’t know if they are moving somewhere to spawn. We need to do more research.”
Along with Garvey, SIU Carbondale researchers on the project include: Jesse Trushenski, assistant professor of zoology and also animal science, food and nutrition; Greg Whitledge, associate professor of zoology; Brian C. Small, associate professor of animal science, food and nutrition; Silvia Secchi, assistant professor of agribusiness economics; David Glover, a post-doctorate fellow with the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center; and Sara J. Trip, a former researcher with the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center.
Secchi’s work focused on the problem from an ecologically economic point of view. Secchi looked at the potential of different strategies for turning the Asian carp biomass into something valuable such as food source for humans or fishmeal for supplementing fish feed or fertilizers.
The fish is high in protein and healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most fish also were low in contaminates. It has a mild flavor and is among one of the healthier fish for consumption, given its plankton feeding habits. In China, where the head of the big head variety is used to make soup, the fish has been hunted to near eradication.Secchi’s research showed that a market exists for Asian carp, although the infrastructure in the region for capturing, processing, and transporting the fish is poorly developed. China currently is importing whole, flash-frozen Asian carp, but demand appears to depend on exporting large-bodied fish in large quantities, with an apparent premium on bighead carp.
Garvey said even with a concerted effort to commercially remove the fish from Illinois waterways, it is likely it would remain there in substantial numbers. Such an outcome, however, might be beneficial in that it would sustain a new industry based on the fish’s harvest.
Along with SIU Carbondale, researchers from Illinois Natural History Survey, the University of Illinois and Michigan State University collaborated on the project.
The executive summary of the report can be found here: http://asiancarp.us/documents/EXECCARP2011.pdf
Tim Crosby | Newswise Science News
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