Asian Carp: Big River Fish To Export Carp To Chinese Markets

There's been plenty of concern about the invasive Asian carp making its way into Lake Michigan. The Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court have all become involved in what's been described as a possible environmental catastrophe.

But one small Illinois business has a solution of its own: give the carp to someone who wants them.

Big River Fish, based in Pearl, Ill., has reached a deal to export 30 million pounds of carp to China this year, according to an NBC Chicago report:

"We've had groups in China taste it. They came here and ate it, and say it's the best carp they've ever had," owner Ross Harano said.

Apparently the rivers in China are too polluted to grow quality carp, so the Illinois fish will be sold at a premium to high-end Chinese restaurants.

Big River Fish expects to make around $20 million per year exporting the carp, and the demand could grow, Harano says.

WBEZ reports that most Americans aren't thrilled by the prospect of eating the carp. Aside from an aversion to the flavor, diners in the States find the fish a bit too bony.

But in China, both the flavor and the boniness of the fish are desirable qualities. WBEZ also quotes Harano: "In Asia, and China in particular, it's viewed as a delicacy," he said.

The Asian carp is a highly invasive fish species: the carp grow quickly, consume a great deal of food, and reproduce in large numbers. As a result, they can devastate an ecosystem, causing the collapse of indigenous species. The carp have slowly made their way up the Mississippi River, and have been detected very close to Lake Michigan; many states that border the lake have sought dire measures to prevent them from entering the lake and potentially destroying the multi-billion-dollar fishing industry in the region.

But if Big River Fish has its way, those measures won't be necessary. Not only will fishing help reduce the scourge of Asian carp near the lake, it will also generate millions of dollars in income and create hundreds of jobs, according to WBEZ.