Asian carp will change their name | Chicago News


At the end of this month, the Illinois will no longer hear the words “Asian carp”. After several years and hundreds and hundreds of millions spent trying to prevent them from accessing the Great Lakes, how is this possible?

And why does this news make environmentalists and the state’s commercial fishing industry swim or leap with optimism?

Dirk Fucik says he discovered a seafood cuisine that could one day be more popular than tilapia: Asian carp.

“It’s healthier than tilapia. Tilapia is omega 6 instead of omega 3, so you get a lot less health benefits from tilapia, ”Fucik, the supplier of North Side’s popular seafood restaurant Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop.

To prove his point, Fucik spent a recent Saturday afternoon cooking up some creative carp cuisine in his store’s parking lot, from Cuban carp burgers to carp tacos to regular old smoked carp. . But despite the accoutrements, the Asian carp is not yet a bestseller.

(WTTW News)

“I’m not making any money on it right now,” Fucik said.

As you may know, Asian carp are the leaping invasive fish that has taken Illinois waterways by storm. Governments have spent hundreds of millions to prevent them from accessing the Great Lakes, fearing they will destroy the lake ecosystem.

But now the Illinois Department of Natural Resources thinks it may have found a solution, and it costs next to nothing. They will change the name of the fish.

“We’re trying to make the name more appealing, so people are more inclined to buy them and eat them at the table, eat them for dinner,” said John Rogner, deputy director of the natural resources department of the Illinois.

So what exactly is wrong with the name Asian carp?

“You made a face when I said carp. When I say carp, everyone looks like this, ”Fucik said during a recent visit to his store.

A typical carp is a bottom feeder – a stinky, sticky fish that is not appetizing to anyone. Asian carp, however, feed on plankton and are unlike other carp.

“When it comes to freshwater fish, if it’s properly prepared it’s probably as good as it gets,” said David Buchanan, a commercial fisherman based just north of Peoria.

We visited Buchanan and his commercial fishing partner Clint Carter recently, hauling 4000 pounds of Asian carp and other fish in the Peoria Basin portion of the Illinois River. Carter says he recently invested in a new boat and fishing gear, anticipating a boom in demand after the name change.

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

“It will help us grow our business and harvest these fish,” Carter said.

Right now, commercial fishermen are receiving a government grant to fish for Asian carp in the Illinois River to help control a massive population that has settled in and taken over.

Most of the fish caught will be used for fertilizer or other industrial uses. But others, especially the bighead Asian carp, may soon be on your plate once they get a tantalizing new name.

As for the naming criteria, Fucik has some ideas.

“You know, simple, short and no carp,” he said.

And there is a precedent for that. Chilean seabass was originally called Patagonian toothfish. The orange roughie was originally known as the Pacific slimehead.

After a generally productive day in the Peoria Pool, Buchanan and Carter haul their load to Sorce Freshwater Company, a Peoria-based fish processor and distributor. Owner Roy Sorce says he pivoted the business nine months ago, after 50 years of distributing food and dry goods. He too is betting big on the name change.

“Job creation is almost unlimited depending on the number of fish. We created 30 to 40 new jobs in the first nine months, mainly thanks to the fishermen, ”Sorce said.

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Sorce says the meat is white and plentiful. But there is another obstacle to culinary success.

“The only bad thing about carp is that it’s bony, and I can’t give you an 8-ounce piece of boneless carp,” Fucik said. “Like a salmon or a tuna, so it has to be ground up and made into burgers, sausages, hot dogs, meatballs, taco meat, anything that has minced meat in it.”

Which brings us back to our taste test. Reviews of Fucik’s carp concoctions were mostly satisfactory among customers.

“The general impression I got was that they are disposable fish. But it tastes good, ”said customer Katharine Hannaford.

Illinois public officials will reveal the name change on June 29, hoping seafood enthusiasts protect Illinois waterways and the Great Lakes from an aggressive invasive species by eating plenty of it.

“I mean there’s so much you can do with this protein, and it’s not going anywhere,” Fucik said.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz





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