New Plan for Asian Carp: If You Can't Stop `Em, Eat `Em

20-pound Asian carp is held after being caught beyond the electric barriers constructed to keep the dreaded invasive species out of the Great Lakes. AP

20-pound Asian carp is held after being caught beyond the electric barriers constructed to keep the dreaded invasive species out of the Great Lakes.
AP

The latest brainstorm about how best to prevent an invasive Asian carp species from devastating native fish populations in the Great Lakes comes courtesy of Governor Pat Quinn.

Illinois is entering into an agreement with Chinese meat processing company Beijing Zhuochen Animal Husbandry Company and Big River Fisheries located in Pearl, Ill. to harvest 30 million pounds of carp from Illinois rivers. Big River will process, package and ship the fish to Zhuochen for resale in international markets where the fish is a delicacy. The company is expected to harvest at least 30 million pounds of fish for the purpose of this agreement by the end of 2011.

Quinn's office says the agreement will generate about 180 jobs.

Video: Asian Carp Invasion

"We believe the people of China who like to eat Asian carp will find this is the best anywhere on Earth," Quinn said at a press conference.

Environmentalists, who have been frantic since a Bighead Asian carp was caught in Lake Calumet along the Chicago Area Waterway System in June, were not terribly impressed. They described the idea was a tactic that at best, would buy time.

"Many communities have been robbed of their ability to use and fish on the Illinois River by the slow response to limit the Asian carp's infestation," according to Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest Director Henry Henderson. "Governor Quinn's announcement will be welcome news for people in places like Peoria, where it might help them get their river back. But our goal for the Illinois River should be to eradicate this dangerous invasive species, not manage a fishery."

Asian carp can eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily and grow as large as 100 pounds, lending urgency to lawmakers' desire to do something. The question of how best to proceed, though, remains a vexing one. Last year, for instance.Illiniois carried out what was the largest organized fish kill in the state's history. Boats dumped poison into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in a bid to stop the carps. But after the operation was complete, officials were able to identify one dead carp.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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