Asian carp burgers, tacos available across Illinois; initiative meant to raise awareness of invasive species

MWRD Commissioner Josina Morita, IDNR pair up in challenge
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local and state officials have come up with a unique way to help control the population of the invasive Asian carp species, saying "if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em."

Josina Morita, a metropolitan water reclamation district commissioner and Great Lakes Commission delegate, joined ABC 7 Chicago Saturday to talk about a new initiative.

Morita and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have teamed up to help rid Illinois waterways of the invasive fish species. Officials plan to pass out 1,000 free Asian carp "treats" for residents to enjoy and to raise awareness of the local crisis, create jobs and protect the environment.

The "Asian Carp Challenge," an unconventional approach to reduce the growing number of Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes, launched Saturday.

Asian Carp is an invasive fish species that currently threatens Chicago's water ecosystem and regional fishing industry.

"We might not be able to eat our way out of this situation, but it will certainly help the cause," Morita said. "While this is meant to be fun, it's a very serious situation -- these fish destroy ecosystems and economies."

Those interested can find Asian carp burgers, tacos and more across the state, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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Invasive Asian Carp have presented a serious threat to the ecology of the Great Lakes for years. While the threat is still very real, the battle to keep them at bay has been largel



All participating residents are encouraged to share pictures on their social media accounts of them preparing, cooking and enjoying the fish with the hashtag #AsianCarpChallenge.

The Asian Carp population has recently skyrocketed throughout the region, and immediate action must be taken to reduce the number of fish, as this invasive species is detrimental to the Great Lakes region which collectively holds 90% of the U.S. water supply and 20% of the world's fresh surface water, officials said. Illinois is currently one of the final remaining barriers to stop this species from causing irreversible damage to the country's fresh water supply and the Great Lakes ecosystem, according to state officials.

Asian carp were imported to the U.S. in the 1970s for aquaculture ponds. Over time, they found their way into the Mississippi River and have been swimming north ever since. Perhaps most notable is their size, which unlike most common fish, can reach up to 100 pounds. In addition to their large size, these fish can consume nearly one third of their body weight each day, creating a major challenge for other fish in the surrounding ecosystem, as they compete for the same resources.

When Asian carp become unable to find the food they need, they continue their journey swimming upstream and consequently move into new ecosystems. They also threaten to disrupt the natural order of the Great Lakes through extremely high reproduction rates. Research shows that in some parts of the Illinois River, Asian carp account for nearly 90% of the river's total biomass.

Future events will take place on Sunday and Oct. 24. Visit asiancarpchallenge.org for more information.

Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop, located at 2070 N. Clybourn Ave. in Lincoln Park, will be offering some of the "treats" Saturday.
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