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Illinois turns problematic Asian carp into delicacy

Melissa Kaplan Jul 14, 2010

Illinois has been in a long battle with an ever-expanding population of Asian carp reeking havoc on the Great Lakes’ ecosystem. Those dealing with the problem have tried everything from a barrier to a two-mile chemical dump. Now the state will try turning the invasive species into a valuable food resource in China. Gov. Pat Quinn signed an agreement with the country to export as much as 30 million pounds of Asian carp from the Illinois River annually. The plan is to pitch the carp to high-scale Chinese restaurants as “Wild Mississippi River Fish” to compensate for the inflated costs of production.

The state is putting a considerable effort into the new campaign, investing $2 million to upgrade facilities that already process and ship Asian carp all over Asia. Big River Fisheries will be able to process up to 50 million pounds of fish, according to fishery officials. The fishery is aiming to ship a minimum of 30 million pounds of fish to China by next year.

The $2 million investment will also bring a potential180 new jobs to the Pearl and Pittsfield communities, home of the Big River facilities.

The fisheries will not suffer from a lack of live resources; the problematic carp boom, which has already overwhelmed the Great Lakes, may be spreading as far as Lake Erie.

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