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Illinois: Asian carp could feed the poor

July 14, 2011 at 2:38 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., July 14 (UPI) -- Illinois says it wants to deal with the problem of invasive Asian carp by grinding the voracious fish into fish sticks to feed the poor.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has proposed the strategy to deal with the invasive species that has taken over the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and threatens the ecology of the Great Lakes, the St. Louis (Mo.) Post-Dispatch reported Thursday.

"We'll filet them and pull the bones out and turn them into fish sticks, or the equivalent of canned tuna," Tom Main, acting deputy director at the DNR said. "The fish actually taste pretty good."

There's no shortage of the fish to work with, since the state pays commercial fishermen to pull Asian carp out of the northern Illinois River in an effort to keep them out of the canals and rivers that connect to Lake Michigan.

"We've pulled out 150 tons just this year," Main said.

In 2008, Asian carp constituted 82 percent of the commercial catch on the Illinois River and 30 percent on the Mississippi, the DNR said. Some of the carp is exported to China, where it is considered a delicacy.

The department is working with Feeding Illinois, an association of food pantries.

Tracy Smith, Feeding Illinois' director, said carp is a good source of protein and other sources are getting expensive, noting the price of a truckload of tuna has risen from $45,000 to $75,000.

"I really like the way the DNR is handling this," she said.

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