Nourish our Nation

quinton phelps and asian carp nan

Invasive species wreak havoc with our economy, our native ecosystems, and our livelihood.

Every year, invasive species cost the United States over $120 billion, and more than $1.4 trillion worldwide, with the annual cost of impact and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy. They are among the top threats to habitats, contributing directly to the decline of more than 40% of the threatened and endangered species in the US, with over 100 million acres suffering from invasive plant infestations.

Wineberries, an invasive plant that displaces native plants that grow in forest, field, stream and wetland edge habitats, open woods, and savannas and prairies, photo courtesy of The 3 Foragers

Invasive plants and animals colonize aggressively, readily out-competing other members of ecosystems and are difficult to eradicate. When an invasive plant nor animal becomes established in an area, biodiversity decreases and habitat structure is altered often causing unwanted changes in the functionality of the ecosystem.

They can negatively impact property values, agricultural productivity, public utility operations, native fisheries, tourism, outdoor recreation and the overall health of an ecosystem. Since people often contribute to the problem by spreading these organisms intentionally or unwittingly, public awareness and support are crucial for combating the invasion.

We must create a solution that meets basic human needs and ensures humankind does not pay a hefty price. In the US, 1 in 5 children suffer from hunger, over 600,000 people are homeless and without proper nutrition, and countless communities are at risk. Yet, we have a bounty of wild natural nutrition rich resources in invasive species that is simply being wasted.

Many methods of invasive species control come with a huge price. Complete eradication, which is often not possible, and toxic methods such as herbicides, pesticides and toxic bio-bullets, come with a huge price tag, and can take years to implement.

If these methods are the only alternative to reduce invasive specie threat, then future generations will rightly judge this era as the most wasteful of humankind. And the millions who need food most, will suffer the biggest cost.

But, people can significantly reduce invasive specie populations and help to nourish our nation, through harvesting these invaders from our waters and land, and preparing delicious, nutritious meals so that all human beings can feel the joy and contentment of a healthy full meal.

wild boar cheek with crispy bacon hank shaw holley a. heyser
Elegant Wild Boar Dish, copyrighted photo, courtesy of Holly A. Heyser

An important nuance – from universal conservation to overabundance

Importantly, some species that were once a cause for universal conservation have become so overabundant in certain regions that they are now considered to be a major problem.

Take the Snow Goose, for example. The massive rise in numbers of Snow Geese in the past couple of decades has resulted in various states implementing special ‘conservation orders’ designed to control the population by setting goals for the numbers of birds to be harvested.

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Snow Geese migrating to winter in southern states

The greatest damage to habitats and wintering areas are caused by the Lesser Snow Goose because they are more thorough in digging up entire plants. Their migration takes them across some of the most fertile agricultural land in the country and has allowed them to diversify their diet to include almost any crop they encounter. They travel farther than other geese populations to winter primarily in the southern states where they devour and destroy rice crops.

Catch this video of Chef Philippe Parola preparing and cooking a Snow Goose.

Dr. Quinton Phelps – the Asian carp crisis and preserving the natural world for future generations

Check out this video featuring Dr. Quinton Phelps, fisheries biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (pictured above with a catch of Asian carp), speaking about how to combat the silver carp problem through changing people’s perceptions of the fish, making it profitable for commercial fishermen, and creating markets for the fish to be sold as a food item.

Quinton shares this:

“We have a huge problem with Asian carp. Being a scientist, I have access to long term data that shows our native species are being greatly harmed by the Asian carp. These fish act like underwater vacuums, pulling in huge amounts of plankton and algae that other fish rely on, which has this huge deleterious effect.

You can steer a boat down the Mississippi, and as soon as the silver carp hear your boat motor, they start “popping up like popcorn” out of the water. Each fish is like an 80 pound torpedo that will strike any boater in its path, leaving black eyes and broken bones.”

Dr. Quinton Phelps, (pictured above), also says this about Asian carp:

“I foresee harvesting Asian carp as one way to we can knock down the population and at the same time, ensure the sustainability of the native species for future generations to enjoy – this is my passion. I don’t want to see our natural resources die.

A lot of people look at the Asian carp issue and say there is nothing that we can do about. I say let’s look in history books and look at some of the animal populations in the past. Let’s look out how we have impacted species through harvesting. I believe Asian carp could be harvested to a point where their impact can be minimized.

I know that this fish is delicious to eat. We have provided seminars on how to prepare fish for more than 25,000 people. 95% love it. The other 5% of the crowd won’t try it because it is carp, and they have preconceived notions about carp. But kids have no preconceived notion, and they love it!”

IAE Cook-off 2014 (73) PJM
Young guest, with her mom, enjoys Asian carp appetizer prepared by Chef Philippe at Invasive Species Cook-off fundraiser, photo courtesy of Institute for Applied Ecology
Chef Philippe’s daughters, and inspiration for Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em – Danielle Parola and Jolie Parola, enjoying fishing on a sparkling day in Louisiana

Moreover, wild, natural Asian carp are clean and safe to eat, unlike the imported fish consumed widely in the United States. Watch this video about catfish production along the polluted Mekong River – the toxic statistics and US consumption rates are alarming.

Dr. Roy Brabham – Asian carp is an “excellent food source”

Nutrition Consultant Dr. Roy Brabham talks about Asian carp as an “excellent food source”:

“I consider Asian carp to be an excellent food source for a number of reasons. Like all fish, it delivers a lot of protein and healthy fats. Unlike ocean fish, sustainability is not an issue with Asian carp. It is overrunning the central American waterways, making it a nuisance and crowding out other species. It feeds on plankton, which is at the bottom of the food chain. This means that progressive food chain concentrations of harmful chemicals such as dioxin and PCB’s and heavy metals such as mercury, do not occur in Asian carp like they do in carnivorous and omnivorous fish.

Some would argue that farm raised fish like catfish and tilapia avoid the food chain accumulation of toxic substances; but this is not necessarily the case, as such farmed fish are typically fed fish-meal derived from fish that are subject to these kinds of contamination.

Many farmed fish are also given grain-based feeds. This reduces the levels of omega-3 fats and increases the amounts of omega-6 fats in their flesh. Since a proper balance of omega=3’s and omega-6’s is required for proper regulation of inflammation processes and thus good health, the imbalances in grain-fed farmed fish are counterproductive, particularly since most people already have too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 intake.

Another problem with farmed fish lies in the fact that large numbers of these fish are crammed into ponds or pens. This is similar to the concentrated animal-feeding operations such as those used for chickens. These conditions promote growth of pathogens like bacteria, yeasts, and parasites, and significant amounts of antibiotics and pesticides are needed to avoid infection issues.

illinois river
The brilliant green Illinois river is bristling with over 4,000 silver carp per river mile, along a 66-mile stretch north of Peoria. But these plankton feeders offer an excellent source of food, devoid of the concentrated toxins often found in carnivorous and omnivorous fish.

Antibiotics accumulate in the fish flesh and are passed on to consumers of the fish. This can result in issues such as emergence of antibiotic-resistant organisms and disruption of normal bacterial balance in the digestive tracts of consumers. The crowded conditions can also create problems with accumulation of excrement and even dead fish material. This is reduced by filtering and recirculating the water (assuming these are done), but some contamination from these sources will remain.”

Chef Philippe Parola and his Silverfin™ Group are using green technology to transform wild caught Asian carp into Silverfin™ – value-added natural protein food products, for human consumption in domestic markets.

Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em!

Here and now, we have the recipes for reducing invasive specie populations, and managing their threat to our native habitats and lives – Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em. Peruse the following recipe pages, and try your hand at preparing the many delectable dishes that are yours for the taking (and tasting)!

wild boar 2
Wild Boar

A special thank you to author and ecologist Corinne Duncan for her content contributions to the Invasive Specie Introductions on the Recipe pages to follow.

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