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article imageAsian carp topic of export discussions between U.S. and China

By Karen Graham     Sep 23, 2014 in Environment
"One man's trash is another man's treasure." And so it is with the Asian carp, considered a delicious fish in China, but an unwanted, invasive species in the United States. Soon, the much-maligned invaders may find themselves being sent back to China.
Over 40 years ago, the Asian carp was brought into the U.S. as a way to keep excess algae under control on catfish farms and waste-water treatment ponds. But while it may have been a good idea at the time, the carp were obviously looking for greener pastures and they soon found them.
So as not to confuse anyone, the word "Asian carp" is used in the U.S. to refer to all the different species of carp. including the grass carp, bighead, silver, black carp. We consider them all as being invasive species, even though we brought them here. Go figure,
It wasn't long before the Asian carp began working their way up the Mississippi River and its various tributaries, devouring everything in their path. Today, they are knocking on Lake Michigan's door, having found their way up into the northern parts of the Illinois River, only 40 miles from the lake.
Grand Rapids, Mich. Mayor George Heartwell, discussing the invasive fish getting into the Great Lakes told Fox News, "This is a national treasure that we have and it's worth keeping. It's 20 percent of the surface fresh water on the globe right here. We're the stewards of it, and it's at risk right now."
There have been a number of solutions tried in controlling or eradicating the invasive fish.The government has tried electric fish fences, water guns and scent-based lures. One company in Illinois is harvesting the carp for use as fish meal and fish oil. But if some U.S. scientists and their counterparts in China have their way — maybe, just maybe, we can export our Asian carp back to China.
In early September, U.S. scientists went to China to seek answers on ways to control the spread of the Asian carp and explore the possibility of exporting the fish back to China. "Chinese love eating the fish, and the U.S. has too many of them, which makes exploring a business plan a win-win solution," said Yang Bo, a freshwater expert from The Nature Conservancy. Yang accompanied the scientists on their visit.
In an interview with the China Daily on Monday, Yang said the plan to export carp to China won't be easy. There are a number of barriers to be overcome, such as high transportation cost and high tariffs. But the real stickler is the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, a U.S. law that makes transportation of the live fish across U.S. state lines illegal. "Although difficulties exist, we are looking for high-level discussion between the two countries," she said.
Jim Garvey is the director of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Center at Southern Illinois University. He says he hopes the ongoing research and collaboration between the U.S. and China will eventually lead to a greater demand for the fish and enhanced economic opportunities.
Yang said that besides fish products trade, the two countries will be strengthening cooperation in Asian carp research, including water temperature and flow related breeding methods so that the U.S. can learn to control the carp and China can boost carp production.
The Asian carp is an algae and plankton eater, and with its voracious appetite, plus growing up to five feet in length, is a strong competitor against native fish. Garvey is concerned that the carp will eat the country's freshwater mussels into extinction. It seems the carp have already eaten into the federal budget. Garvey said the U.S. has spent over $100 million on research in the past four years, trying to come up with a solution to the Asian carp invasion.
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