DOUG ROSS: If there's to be a fish fry, let's eat fish

2014-01-10T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: If there's to be a fish fry, let's eat fishBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

A major report on Asian carp came out this week, but it was buried by snow — along with everything else.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report Tuesday suggests a number of options for dealing with the Asian carp and other invasive species creeping into the Great Lakes.

Among the ideas on the table — or in the water, in this case — are:

  • Reverse the flow of the Chicago River (restoring it after all these years)
  • Inspecting and cleaning watercraft before or after entering a waterway
  • Set up nets with openings big enough to let smaller fish through but big enough to trap Asian carp
  • Use locks to zap water around barges and other vessels on the Chicago Area Waterway System
  • Apply herbicides and pesticides
  • Use electric fences

Environmental groups quickly jumped on the idea of physically separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River as the most effective way. They're right, of course, but the collateral damage could be severe.

That would shut down the shipping industry, a bad idea in an area whose economy is heavily dependent on transportation.

The report hinted at another idea, but it wasn't explicit. But first you should know why Asian carp are in our area in the first place.

They were in fish farms in the Deep South, then escaped the farms when the Mississippi River flooded some years back. Who can blame them for exploring new territory?

If they spread to the Great Lakes — and they're right on the doorstep — the Asian carp species could dominate, threatening the existence of other species in the lakes. 

These fish are menacing, too. Just ask Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who took a boat trip on the Wabash River and came face to face with Asian carp. Zoeller wants an Indiana hearing on the Asian carp issue before Congress settles on a strategy.

By the time Congress acts, it might be too late to fight the spread of Asian carp to the Great Lakes. But even if the Great Lakes can be protected, what about the waterways they have already invaded?

The image most people have of the Asian carp is of giant fish leaping into boats. Or maybe they've seen the electric fences zapping the fish, thinking about what that might do to a swimmer.

That got me to thinking. If you're going to fry the fish anyway, why not dip them in batter first?

Here's my suggestion: Create a market for these carp by inviting top chefs to create recipes for them and make them a delicacy in top restaurants. Whether this is through a Food Network show or a Chicago restaurant contest, the aim is to make the public crave this fish.

That would create market-based incentives for commercial fishing of those species and boost sport fishing as well.

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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