WMEAC puts Asian carp on menu for Fight ‘em & Fillet ‘em awareness event

Special event highlights threat of invasive species to Great Lakes

The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and San Chez Bistro put Asian carp on the menu as part of an exclusive culinary event to benefit efforts to keep the notorious invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

“Fight ‘em & Fillet ‘em” highlighted efforts to keep the notorious invasive species out of West Michigan waterways as part of a fun, informative and tasty evening of adventurous eating and cocktails. Featured speakers were John Goss, Asian carp director at the Council on Environmental Quality, and Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant Southwest District extension educator.

Asian carp are invasive species of fish found in the Mississippi River Basin that are rapidly making their way toward Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System. Of concern in our region are two species of fish native to Asia, commonly known as silver and bighead carp. These fish are voracious eaters that threaten the Great Lakes’ ecosystem by out-competing other plankton-feeding aquatic species at the bottom of the food chain, with the potential to negatively impact recreational and commercial fisheries and the industries that depend on them. Commonly associated with widely circulated videos of “flying” or “attack” fish, Asian carp can weigh up to 100 pounds and have been known to leap out of the water when disturbed by boats, a threat to boaters, water skiers and equipment.

Widely described as a cross between crab meat and scallops, Asian carp are earning solid reviews from chefs throughout the Mississippi River Basin, where state leaders are attempting to re-brand the fish as “Silverfin” or “Kentucky Tuna” in an effort to thin their population and keep local fishermen working. From a biological standpoint, Asian carp are quite different from common carp, which are bottom feeders.

“Although I hear it’s delicious, I don’t think anyone would like to see Asian carp as the catch of the day in West Michigan waters,” said WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood. “This is a way to draw awareness to the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species to Lake Michigan and West Michigan’s waterways… and to have a good time doing it.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it is embarking on a four-year, $25 million study on how to stop the migration of invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. WMEAC and its members are disappointed by the timetable proposed in this announcement and support an accelerated study to produce a long-term solution within 12 to 18 months, as called for in the federal lawsuit recently filed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania against the Corps. The Great Lakes fishing industry is worth some $7 billion annually to the Midwest economy.

Learn more about the event at fightasiancarp.org or the WMEAC Facebook page. A $40 donation is requested for diners. Non-fish and vegetarian entrees will also be served. San Chez is located at 38 Fulton Street West in downtown Grand Rapids.

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