The Atlantic has a story today on the rise of Asian silver carp in the Mississippi River. Turns out too many fish can be just as big a problem as too few. Apparently these non-native fish jump into boats, decimate ecosystems and engage in all sorts of general mischief:
"I've been hit hard," said Duane Chapman, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and one of the foremost American experts on Asian carp. Chapman, who is based in Missouri, installed nets around his boat to protect himself. But that didn't work quite well enough. One time, he recalled, "a really large one came out from behind me. I heard it come out of the water, and I turned a little bit. The son of a gun cleared the net and hit me right above the teeth. I tell you, my neck hurt for two weeks. It was like getting hit by a bowling ball."
People are desperate to control the population—last month, the Obama administration announced a $78.5 million initiative intended to prevent Asian carp from migrating and establishing a population in the Great Lakes.
Another idea involves rebranding the bony fish as food—and separating it in people's minds from plain old "carp," a smelly, unpopular bottom feeder. Chef Philippe Parola is on the case. In the past, he's worked on alligator, and something a bit more challenging:
Parola had far less success in the 1990s, when he teamed up with the state in a quixotic attempt—putting it kindly—to convince people to eat nutria, a voracious swamp rodent that looks like a cross between a rat and a beaver.
The biggest deterrent seems to be the bones, something American eaters can't really get down with. That said, the writer found the fish mildly edible. The whole effort raises another question: Why create a market for a fish that you hope to eliminate?