Expanding the commercial Asian carp export market to China is among several measures outlined in the Obama administration's "2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework," a $47 million plan to prevent the jumbo carp from infesting the Great Lakes. China already has a taste and demand for the mild, flaky, white fish, which is considered a delicacy.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $2 million program last July to boost commercial fishing for Asian carp on stretches of the Illinois River and sell them in China. The state contracted with a Chinese meat processing company and an Illinois commercial fishing company to harvest 30 million pounds from Illinois rivers.
Asian carp can jump across the length of a boat. Fishermen literally herd them into nets or shock them out of the water. The fish don't take bait off hooks. They eat plankton, not other fish.
The Asian grass carp was introduced deliberately into the U.S. in 1963 for aquatic weed control. Another species, silver carp, was imported from Asia in the 1970s to control algae growth in aquaculture and municipal wastewater treatment facilities, but it quickly escaped captivity.
Chapman acknowledges they can be delicious. He has youtube.com/watch?v=T1NVUV8yhmU">a three-part video series on YouTube that takes viewers from a boat, with Asian carp leaping all around, to the kitchen, where he explains how to debone and cook the fish.
The major downsides of cooking Asian carp are their low meat yield - 20% to 25% - and their heavy bone structure, he says.
They're filter feeders, and don't look or taste like common carp, which are bottom feeders.
Asian carp feed extremely low on the food chain, where contaminants aren't much of an issue, Chapman says. That makes them better eating fish - low in contaminants and fat, with mild meat that tastes like cod, he says.
Making Asian carp menu-worthy in the U.S. probably would require changing its name, as "carp" is considered an unappetizing four-letter word. Some have suggested calling it Kentucky carp or silverfin.
Wade isn't planning to change the name on his invasivore menu. But he will offer plenty of other tapas options for those not interested in Asian carp, which will be priced in the $8 to $12 range for the Feb. 1 reservations-only dinner.
Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, is all for the entrepreneurial spirit.
"One of the great things about North Americans is when they're dealt lemons, they make lemonade," Gaden said. "But very often, they forget that they weren't drinking lemonade in the first place, and don't even like it."
If policy makers "don't focus on prevention like a laser beam, then you have to learn to live with what comes into the Great Lakes, and ultimately you will disrupt what you enjoy," Gaden said. "It never will be as good as what Mother Nature gave you, which is suited to the environment you have."
Creating a market here for Asian carp would be "surrendering and making do with what you've been dealt - not what Mother Nature intended," said Gaden.
excerpted from a longer article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal