The trend of answering invasive species issues with culinary creativity continues to grow.
Asian silver carp
In 1973 some Arkansas catfish farmers decided it was a good idea to import live silver carp from China to “clean” their catfish ponds. Soon after, the mighty Mississippi flooded her banks, washing silver carp into the river. Turns out these carp like it here in America, and now dominate river systems throughout the midwest.
Ledbetter, Kentucky, lies on the Tennessee River where Ronny Hopkins, his son and grandson now fish Asian silver carp. They will catch 5000 pounds while the morning is still young. The carp are surprisingly delicious, as chefs around the country are discovering.
Wild blue catfish
In the early 1970’s landowners at the mouth of Virginia’s James River introduced wild blue catfish to the Chesapeake for recreational fishing. Turns out these catfish enjoyed the bay, and feeding on striped bass, blue crab, and many the the native species, are now the dominate species throughout the bay.
We have been working with a group of small boat fishermen landing in Norfolk, VA to develop a market for this fishery. Blue catfish are not bottom dwellers, and the flesh is clean and sweet. Wild blue catfish was served last week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Food Institute to the delight of food system experts and journalists.
According to urban legend, majestic Lionfish were the favorite aquarium pets of Columbian drug lords living in Miami’s glass towers in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew ravaged south Florida. Six lionfish allegedly found their way to the sea that day, and recent DNA testing of lionfish that now dominate reef systems from Massachusetts to Venezuela indicate that they all have descended from a small number of fish, lending credibility to the legend.
For the past decade fishermen have tried all they could to tempt lionfish to be captured by any type of bait or trap, with no success. The only method of catch has been by spearfishing, an arduous process. The man who created the Roomba is working on two robots designed to hunt down invasive lionfish. Robots in the Service of the Environment is behind the project, and it is currently working to engineer prototypes. One leading design spears lionfish; another electrocutes them.
Lionfish feed on baby snappers, baby groupers, and a variety of reef crustaceans, and as ‘we are what we eat’, lionfish flesh is delicious. If we can develop a way to efficiently harvest them, we can likely make a serious culinary dent in the population.
Diners everywhere are looking to change the world with their forks. If you happen to be in Denver on Tuesday, join our friends at Beast and Bottle’s Invasive Species Dinner. Offering your guests delicious affordable healthy seafood with the added value of positive environmental change is a winning formula.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team