By Sarah Groos
CHICAGO, Ill -- Catching quite a bit of media attention at the 32nd annual Taste of Chicago in Grant Park July 11 was the booth offering more than 800 Asian carp sliders free of charge.
Dirk Fucik of Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago complemented the mixture of silver and bighead carp meat with a dollop of tomato jalapeno chutney. The public bit at the chance to taste test this aquatic invasive species.
The booth was organized by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) along 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.
"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 regional market for carp as a food source," IDNR Director Marc Miller said.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) officials were also on site to chat about interagency aquatic invasive species prevention initiatives with the guests, as they sampled the tasty and nutritious meat.
"This was a great opportunity to educate the public on how vast the efforts are to prevent Asian carp from establishing within the Great Lakes. The Corps operates the electric barriers in Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to deter fish movement and is constantly looking at ways to enhance effectiveness. We monitor the canal for Asian carp presence and are also studying long-term controls to prevent aquatic nuisance species transfer between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study. Prevention is no small undertaking, but we have a joint and dedicated front to take on the challenge," said USACE Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr.
Lines of the carp-curious wrapped around the corner, and the booth was not without customer until the samples ran out a little over two hours after opening shop.
"This event was definitely a success. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Even those who were reluctant to try them ended up with a 'Hey, not bad,'" said GLMRIS Project Manager Dave Wethington, who had three sliders himself.
The IDNR and USACE are both members of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which was formed in 2009 to ensure a comprehensive and effective response in preventing Asian carp establishment through a sustainable control program with implementable actions.