Illinois Department of Natural Resources Brings Asian Carp to the Taste of Chicago
Public invited to learn about efforts to control invasive species in the Great Lakes
CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is teaming up with the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Feeding Illinois and Illinois American Water to build understanding of how a vibrant local market for Asian carp contributes to managing the population of this invasive species. On Wednesday, July 11, Taste of Chicago guests were able to sample this healthy, tasty fish free of charge near the Taste entrance at Congress Parkway, while at the same time learning about efforts to protect the Great Lakes.
“It’s important to show people in the Great Lakes region that we have a multi-pronged mitigation plan for controlling the Asian carp population. The Taste of Chicago is the perfect venue to showcase one element of that plan: the presence of a strong local market for carp as a food source,” IDNR Director Marc Miller said.
The owner of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop, Dirk Fucik, made 750 samples of Asian carp sliders with jalepeno chutney. Mr. Fucik was voted “Best Fishmonger” by Chicago Magazine, “Best Sushi” by Chicago’s Best, and has appeared on Animal Planet, PBS, ABC, and dozens of other media outlets. Dirk is a longtime partner of Shedd Aquarium’s Right Bite program, which promotes seafood that is caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.
By introducing Chicagoans to carp in a fun, delicious way, the free tasting was intended to increase awareness of work being done to control the invasive species.
“Fish has so many benefits. It’s tasty, healthy and can be used for countless other products. But if we don’t protect our native fish by removing invasive species such as Asian carp, native fish won’t be an abundant resource for future generations. Asian carp can be used in similar ways if we can change the perception and most importantly, remove them from our rivers to allow our native fish to thrive,” Fucik said.
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.
Members of the ACRCC including experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources were on hand with unique displays and materials to educate the public on the ongoing efforts to stop Asian carp from establishing a self-sustaining population in the Great Lakes. Visitors were also able to pick up Shedd Aquarium’s Right Bite wallet guide, a quick, easy reference tool for choosing environmentally friendly seafood.
“Keeping Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is a priority, and we applaud IDNR for its leadership in developing creative solutions that have prevented the carp from advancing closer to Lake Michigan,” said Roger Germann, Shedd’s Executive Vice President. “While many federal, state and international agencies and organizations continue collaborating to find a permanent solution to this extremely complex issue, creating a Midwest carp market is one way to address the current ecological conditions that we are forced to deal with in our region.”
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