Rethinking Asian Carp
Doesn’t an expensive lobster dinner sound good right now? You are probably thinking that it sounds delicious, but you just can’t afford it right now. I mean, have you looked at the price of lobster lately? The average cost is about $10.99 a pound (“Coming to Grips”). Did you know that once upon a time, the thought of eating lobster was considered less than desirable? According to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, it once was considered a poor man’s food. In 17th century New England, it was given to the poor, prisoners, and indentured servants. The thought of eating it was so repulsive that even the indentured servants turned it down. The early colonists used the lobsters more for fertilizer than an enticing meal. Europeans historically liked eating lobster, but the early Americans colonists did not (“Coming to Grips”). Who decided this creature was not only edible, but a delicacy? The taste seemed to grow on people, and through time lobster was not considered such a repulsive option. During World War II lobster was considered a delicacy. It filled the demand for food that was rich in protein, since there was meat rationing during the war. Profits dramatically increased for lobster fisherman, and a whole new industry emerged along the Eastern Seaboard (Gulf of Maine). Presently, there’s another species that is not only thought of as less desirable, but actually feared. This is the Asian carp. Asian carp were introduced to the ponds of the Southern United States during the mid 1970’s. This was done to alleviate the problem of the algae that was building up. There are four main species of Asian carp. These include Bighead, Black, Silver, and Grass carp. As a result of flooding, the Asian carp escaped from the ponds and established themselves in the Mississippi River (“Asian Carp Fact Sheet”). According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan is extremely concerned that the Asian carp will find their way into the Great Lakes. Asian carp are able to reach eighty to one hundred pounds, and they can eat forty percent of their body weight in food every day. Asian carp feed on plankton, which is a source of food for our native fish. Experts speculate that the carp could disrupt the food chain in the Great Lakes and alter our ecosystem (“DNRE”). Anthropologist Hugh Raffles offers a different viewpoint. He argues that humans ignore how migration is an essential feature of the evolutionary process. Trying to restore ecosystems by eliminating new inhabitants most often fail, and do more harm than good. He uses the example of the honeybee being brought to the United States in the 1600’s, and eventually becoming part of our agriculture system (“Mother Nature’s”). Jerry Rasmussen is a former United States Fish and Wildlife biologist. He believes that there is no question that the Asian carp can, and will, eventually enter into the Great Lakes. Duane Chapman, a United States Geological Survey scientist in Missouri and a leading expert on the fish says, “It’s quite possible they may not reach huge densities in the Great Lakes.” He attributes this to water temperatures and our seasons. In Lake Erie, Huron, and Michigan they may be able to grow for only six months out of the year, and in very chilly Lake Superior only two months out of the year. When water temperatures drop below 59 degrees the fish lose weight and it is hard for them to feed (Lam). Many fisheries in Iowa, Illinois, and the South do not see this as a threat. They are turning the threat into profit. They are turning lemons into lemonade. Schafer Fisheries in Illinois is turning Asian carp into jerky, hot dogs, taco meat, and all other kinds of palatable products (Lepeska). Instead of fearing the invasion of the Asian carp, the Great Lakes region should welcome the idea, due to the fact that...