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Asian carp were never supposed to live in North American waterways. Like many other invasive species, they were introduced by humans in an attempt to address another problem, namely to remove algae from catfish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the 1970s. But sometime in the next two decades, the fish escaped their enclosures — most likely due to several large floods in the ‘90s — and began to spread.
Over the past 15 years, populations have exploded, as the carp outcompete native fish populations and quickly reproduce through the tributaries of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers while moving north to the Great Lakes. And they’ve become a huge problem.
The name “Asian carp” is actually an umbrella title for four different species: bighead carp, black carp, grass carp and silver carp. Some of the larger species can weigh up to 100 pounds and have an uncanny ability to jump out of the water. Females can produce upwards of 2 million eggs, and some of the fish can live for 20 years.
A research team at the University of Missouri did a blind taste test last year, and the carp won handily over the far more popular catfish. Phelps’ team conducted a similar taste test and found diners preferred the carp 2-to-1 over catfish and tilapia, regardless of cooking method.
“If you’re at the stage where we’re at, and you’re having the trouble that we are, we’ve got to start somewhere, and we have a lot of people in this country that are hungry,” Phelps said. “This is the perfect protein source. I say, let’s eat ‘em.”
We heartily agree.
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