Illinois Department of Natural Resources Brings Asian Carp to the Illinois State Fair
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today teamed up with Sean Keeley, owner and executive chef of Ross Isaac, one of Springfield’s most popular restaurants, to raise awareness of how tasty Asian carp can be and build off the success of the IDNR’s ‘Target Hunger Now!’ program. Long-term program partners Feeding Illinois and Illinois American Water joined the IDNR today to continue building an understanding of how a vibrant local market for Asian carp contributes to managing the population of this invasive species.
Illinois State Fair visitors were able to sample this healthy, tasty fish free of charge inside Conservation World across from the IDNR Fisheries Tent. Free samples of Asian carp sliders and fritters prepared by Chef Keeley were available between 11 a.m. and noon.
“It’s important to show people in Illinois and the Great Lakes region that we have a multi-pronged mitigation plan for controlling the Asian carp population. We had great success at the Taste of Chicago with an Asian carp sampling, and the Illinois State Fair is another great venue to showcase one element of that plan: the presence of a strong local market for Asian carp as a food source,” IDNR Director Marc Miller said.
‘Target Hunger Now!’ and program partners are pleased to welcome the participation in the state fair event of Sean Keeley, whose culinary creativity – particularly using Illinois-grown and Illinois-made products -- is well known among those who dine at his Ross Isaac restaurant in Springfield. With the help of culinary students from Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Chef Keeley prepared smoked Asian carp barbeque sliders and Asian carp fritters for Conservation World visitors to sample. By introducing visitors to Asian carp in a fun, delicious way, the free tasting was intended to increase awareness of work being done to control the invasive fish.
“When the IDNR asked me to partner with them and use Asian carp, I was immediately excited. I worked with it for a few days and was quickly able to come up with a number of different recipes I hope people will enjoy. It’s a mild whitefish that can be used so many ways. I’m excited to try something new and applaud the IDNR for their efforts to educate the public about these fish,” said Keeley.
The IDNR is working on a variety of fronts with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) to eradicate the threat posed by non-native Asian carp and prevent them from establishing a population in the Great Lakes. In tandem with these efforts, a local taste for Asian carp will help to keep the fish’s population in check.
Over the past two and a half years, efforts by the Illinois DNR, through contracts with Illinois commercial fishermen, have removed more than 1 million pounds of bighead and silver Asian carp from the Illinois River.
Currently, the IDNR uses Asian carp with its ‘Target Hunger Now!’ program, an agency-managed humanitarian effort that processes and distributes the fish to food banks and charitable organizations throughout Illinois. ‘Target Hunger Now!’ is a partnership between the IDNR, Feeding Illinois and Illinois American Water.
For more information on the work of the Illinois DNR and the ACRCC to protect the Great Lakes, please visit www.asiancarp.us