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When Life Gives You Carp, You Make Carp-onade

Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District commander, tosses an invasive silver carp onto a commercial fishing boat here, June 5, 2012. More than 850 bighead and silver carp were caught in trammel nets during this outing.

Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District commander, tosses an invasive silver carp onto a commercial fishing boat here, June 5, 2012. More than 850 bighead and silver carp were caught in trammel nets during this outing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed building barricades between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan to stop the invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lake. While native aquatic populations may be suffering, a bowfisherman in Peoria, Illinois now owns and operates a successful business, Peoria Carp Hunters, by leading guided bowfishing trips on the Illinois River.

Now, other investors are turning their sights to Asian-carp-infested waters. Namely, Chinese investor Lu Xu Wu. While many Americans do not find these bony fish palatable, the Chinese market is in high demand for fish since pollution there has made many fish unfit to eat, according to Marketplace, part of American Public Media.

Lu Xu Wu was drawn to make U.S. export deals where he is working toward exporting 35 million pounds of carp to China over the next three years. He was present in Grafton, Illinois at a speech announcing the initiative to export carp to China.

At a town meeting, Marc Miller, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said, “we should be thinking about these invasive species as opportunities for us to focus on economic development… I mean who else can take lemons and turn them into lemonade like providing an opportunity for 39 jobs here in this community, that’s what we’re doing with the Asian carp.”

Others are more skeptical.

Steve McNitt, sales manager for Schafer Fish in northwest Illinois has tried selling carp to China, but he found that carp that sell for $0.45 a pound is not enough to cover costs of trading and to make a profit.

Those also wary of a booming trade in Asian carp fear that building an industry from invasive species won’t solve the problem of their overpopulation.

Image from Sarah Gross / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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