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HomeGeneralScientist Urges Americans to Eat “Environmental Time-Bomb” Invading US Waters

Scientist Urges Americans to Eat “Environmental Time-Bomb” Invading US Waters

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A scientist is urging the public to play a role in managing an invasive fish population by consuming it. Mark Morgan, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has dedicated over a decade to researching the Asian carp, an invasive species in the United States, as reported by Modern Conservationist.

Also known as the silver carp, this fish was introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s to aid in water purification in catfish ponds. The carp population experienced exponential growth over time, evolving into an environmental burden in Midwestern waters.

The increasing number of carp created challenges for native fish species in Midwest waterways as they struggled to compete for food.

“The river that’s most affected is the Illinois River, which runs from Chicago to St. Louis. That waterway has the most Asian carp of any place on the planet, including China — and that is where the fish came from,” Morgan conveyed to Modern Conservationist.

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The accelerated expansion of the carp population is attributed to the fish’s prolific reproductive rate. As per the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, female carp can lay anywhere from 145,000 to 5.4 million eggs.

“It’s an environmental time bomb,” emphasized Morgan. In addition to the environmental concerns, the invasive carp pose a physical threat to humans. The species exhibits acrobatic behaviors, often leaping out of the water in groups. 

Given that the average carp grows up to 3 feet long and can weigh between 20 and 80 pounds, a carp attack can potentially cause significant injuries to boaters, as noted by the EPA.

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In 2015, Morgan initiated the Eat MO Carp initiative to raise awareness about the necessity of managing the overabundant carp population through consumption. In the fish’s native countries, particularly in Asia, the Asian carp is regarded as a delicious delicacy that is low in mercury content and provides a rich source of nutrients.

Morgan has expanded the impact of the Eat MO Carp project by using it to provide food for those in need. According to Modern Conservationist, in 2018, Morgan supplied processed carp for consumption to underserved communities in Haiti. Haiti is a country grappling with widespread child malnutrition and where approximately half of adult women suffer from anemia. 

The Pan American Health Organization reported this. To extend the global reach of Eat MO Carp’s food security initiatives, Morgan collaborated with Sorce Freshwater to develop a powdered carp product.

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In its early stages, Eat MO Carp has secured several grants and received over $2,700 in crowdfunding donations to support its mission. The initiative has led to an increased number of restaurants serving carp, and there are ongoing efforts to rebrand the fish as “copi” on menus.

Despite the progress made by initiatives like Eat MO Carp, the need to diminish the presence of carp in U.S. waters remains urgent. The carp population in the Mississippi River is approaching the Great Lakes, posing significant risks to the native ecosystem and local fishing industries, as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission reported.

“Carp have been prevented from entering Lake Michigan because of electrification, but the army is amassing the troops,” Morgan said to Modern Conservationist. “Now our focus should be on reduction, not simply prevention.”

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