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Author Topic: War on the Asian fishies  (Read 910 times)

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War on the Asian fishies
« on: Mar 29 06 01:24 »
 [DIV class=head2]Illinois senator offers food for thought on pesky fish

[DIV class=byLine align=left]By [A class=byLine href="mailto:kmcdermott@post-dispatch.com"][FONT color=#000000]Kevin McDermott[/FONT][/A]

[DIV class=byLine align=left]POST-DISPATCH SPRINGFIELD BUREAU

[DIV class=byLine]03/28/2006

[DIV class=story align=left] [DIV id=storyphoto style="FLOAT: left; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 4px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 4px; PADDING-TOP: 10px"] [TABLE style="VERTICAL-ALIGN: top; TEXT-ALIGN: left" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=155 border=0] [TBODY] [TR] [TD style="BORDER-BOTTOM: #000000 1px solid"][img height=165 alt="" src="http://images.stltoday.com/stltoday/resources/carp155x165.jpg" width=155 border=0]
[FONT size=1][FONT class=search]"They destroy our nets," said Tony Esker about the problematic Asian carp several years ago, a commercial fisherman who helps his father, commercial fisherman Gene Esker, fish the Mississippi Rivers.[/FONT]
[FONT class=byLine]([FONT class=byLine]By [A class=byLine href="mailto:lskrivan@post-dispatch.com"][FONT color=#000000]Laurie Skrivan[/FONT][/A][/FONT]/P-D)[/FONT][/FONT][/TD][/TR][/TBODY][/TABLE][/DIV]
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. The latest tactic in the war on Asian carp is simple: Eat them.

That's what one state legislator is proposing. He wants a $750,000 state subsidy for a full-scale assault of catching, processing and selling the 50-plus-pound Chinese invaders with a poor culinary reputation.

The aggressive fish have have been known to literally jump into boats unprovoked and injure people.

"At first I scoffed. I thought it was a joke," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline. Like many others, he initially thought the tales of broken noses and bruised bones from kamikaze carp had to be, well, fish stories. [SCRIPT language=DOH!script] [!-- // begin DisplayAds("Frame1","",""); // --] [/SCRIPT]  [SCRIPT language=DOH!Script1.1 src="http://OAS-Central.RealMedia.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_jx.ads/www.stltoday.com/news/illinoisstate/1382219023@Frame1" type=text/XXXXscript][/SCRIPT]  

[DIV class=story align=left]

[DIV class=story align=left]They aren't.

"Asian carp pose a considerable hazard to boaters, mainly due to silver carp jumping into moving boats, causing human injuries and property damage," stated a 2004 report by the U.S. Geological Survey. "Damage from a jumping carp . . . might reasonably be compared to being hit with a thrown bowling ball."

The carp also are wreaking ecological havoc among smaller, less ballistic species of fish in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Experts aren't sure of their numbers, but they're sure they're in the thousands. The Army Corps of Engineers recently created an underwater electric barrier to Lake Michigan at Chicago to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes.

On Tuesday, Jacobs called for the $750,000 state subsidy to help a fish-processing plant in his district retool so it can process, press, bread and sell the rapidly multiplying, occasionally dangerous fish. The idea, he said, is to "take this problem and turn it into a solution."

The conflict with Asian carp had its beginnings in the 1970s, when Arkansas catfish farmers began importing the fish - large, voracious eaters - to help keep their catfish ponds clear of weeds and plankton. The floods of the 1990s washed those transplanted populations into the Mississippi River. They have been eating their way north ever since, growing out of control in both population and girth.

The two Asian carp species of most concern to environmentalists - silver carp and bighead carp - can grow to 60 and 110 pounds, respectively. Prolific breeders, they have driven away smaller fish, depleting their food sources and causing other ecological problems often associated with rapidly multiplying imported species.

And silver carp - apparently agitated by the sound of boat motors - have a habit of flinging their 40-pound or 50-pound bodies into moving boats and injuring boaters.

"It really happens. I've been hit many times," said Kevin Irons, a river biologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, stationed on the Illinois River at Havana, northwest of Springfield. He described his most painful encounter: A fish of "15 or 20 pounds - just came up and hit me in the legs."

Irons said one co-worker's injuries were serious enough to require a visit to a chiropractor, and he knows of another woman who suffered a broken nose. "It's like dodge ball out there. You're going to get hit."

Jacobs' proposal would provide $750,000 to Schafer's Fisheries of Thomson, Ill., to buy equipment necessary to process the large, bony fish into breaded patties for institutional sales. Among the first customers, he suggested, could be the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Thomson is not far from the Mississippi River, in Carroll County, in northwestern Illinois.

Schafer's already sells the heads of the fish in Asian-American communities, where it is a delicacy. But the company's hope is to create a mainstream market for processed Asian carp meat - a market that not only could be profitable, but would have the added benefit of thinning the carp's population in the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

Proponents say the subsidy is necessary because even a large, plentiful fish that jumps into boats is worthless if there isn't a market for it. "It takes time and money to develop a market," said Mike Schafer, owner of the company. He said he hopes to increase his current annual take of 2 million pounds of the fish up to 10 million, which could have a noticeable impact on the river population.

But others suggested that the limited interest in carp as a food dish might make such a plentiful fish hard to profit from.

"I don't care for the taste, and they have a fair amount of bone," said Ed Kram, owner of Kram Fish Co. near downtown St. Louis. He said fishermen who supply his company throw the Asian carp back when they inadvertently catch them. "I don't know what the market would be. Who wants them?"

Jacobs' bill to create the state subsidy is pending in the Senate.

The bill is SB2474.
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