Flying Carp and
Today's snack idea: catfish pizza!
That's right! Sounds fishy, but tastes delicious! Broil a fillet of catfish
with a little spray of butter and salt and pepper. Cut into chunks. Either
prepare a homemade pizza using box directions, or toast an English muffin and
spread pizza sauce on each half. Either way, top with broiled catfish chunks
and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, and return to the broiler.
Big, ugly fish from Asia are endangering boaters and
sporting fish in rivers in the heartland of America, but a creative solution
promises to solve the problem.
Wait a minute - how did the big,
ugly Asian fish get there in the first place? Did they stow away? Hitchhike?
Parachute down from passing planes?
Noooo. It seems that in the 1970s,
fish farmers who practice aquaculture - growing food in water, mostly fish -
imported the big, ugly Asian silver carp because they are very, very good at
gobbling up plankton and algae in the cultivated fish ponds in which fish
farmers grow fish for profit.
Carp are bottom feeders; their dinner plates are the bottoms
of ponds and rivers. They eat a lot, and the more they eat, the less there is
for other species of fish and aquatic creatures to eat. So they were, like,
That was the point of introducing them to the fish farms.
But somehow, some way, enough silver carp "escaped" and wound up with wild fish
in the Missouri River and other rivers that drain waters from the heartland of
the United States. They continued to breed and feed on local native fish,
reducing their populations. Fishermen don't want to catch them, because they
aren't too good to eat.
That's bad enough. But what's worse, the silver carp, which
can reach 10 to 20 pounds, have a tendency to jump high in the air when
startled. They would just suddenly pop up out of the water, startling boaters
and something damaging boats. They literally were causing a hazard for boaters
to the point at which some fishermen were having to install "carp guards" on
their boats to keep from being injured by the unexpected flying fish.
So not only were
they hogging the food from the fish we WANT to thrive in our rivers, they were
bugging the humans who were trying to have some safe and restful recreation.
scientists from the government and universities for a little old-fashioned
problem solving. And here it is: the unwanted carp from the rivers are now
being harvested, processed into food, and fed to fish-eating zoo animals like
penguins, sea lions and pelicans for a win-win!
Turns out the St.
Louis Zoo had been buying 60 tons of fish per year (that's 60 x 2,000 to come
up with the pounds of fish that represents) at a cost of 30 cents to 70 cents per
pound (multiply the number of pounds of fish by an average cost per pound of 50
cents, and you'll see how much money that represents).
figured that they could substitute carp for the more gourmet types of fish they
had been buying, up to 25 percent of the total. The carp could be ground up and
various nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, could be added. It would
reduce the carp populations in the rivers, nourish the zoo animals, and save
the zoo money.
What's not to
like about THAT?
To learn more about silver carp,
search for articles about that species on the website of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, www.fws.gov, or see this
University of Missouri link:
Now, here are three ideas to
stretch your thinking:
Call your local zoo, ask to speak to the education
director, explain that you're learning about constructive disposal of fish
pests, the silver carp, by feeding them to zoo animals, and ask a question or
two about innovative and more cost-effective sources of food that your zoo has
Write a science fiction story that explains why
Asian carp are REALLY invading Midwestern American rivers. Is it a carp
conspiracy to take over the country? When they do, what will happen? How will
our lives change? One thing's for sure - there'll be a lot of "carping," or
Visit a pet store that sells fish. Talk with the
employee who knows the most about them. Ask how fish are fed in the tanks vs.
how they feed in the wild. Try to determine how much the smallest and the
largest fish in the store weighs, and compare those two fish to a large silver
carp, which may weigh in at 20 pounds.