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Seafood Wholesaler J.J. McDonnell Harvests Invasive Blue Catfish To Help Chesapeake Bay

ELKRIDGE, Md. (WJZ) -- The blue catfish have become a growing challenge in the Chesapeake Bay, threatening other native species and depleting other food sources.

But now, one local seafood wholesaler sees the growth of the invasive species as a positive.

J.J. McDonnell is trying to raise awareness and sales to get as many blue catfish out of the bay and onto plates.

The president of the company said it's really a win-win situation for all.

At J.J. McDonnell's, the wild blue catfish have become one of the company's major focus.

"It's about doing something good for the Chesapeake Bay," said George McManus, company president.

The invasive species have become a rising challenge to the Chesapeake Bay and its ecosystem since it was introduced to the region in the 1970s.

"So that means it doesn't have a lot of predators that can feed off of it," McManus said.

Experts said the problem is blue catfish grow fast, live long and reproduce a ton, depleting other food sources, like blue crabs, striped bass and oysters.

"We look at it as an opportunity rather than a problem," McManus said.

That's why J.J. McDonnell is teaming up with local fishermen to help address the growing threats blue catfish pose to the Chesapeake Bay, all while promoting a sustainable environment.

"What we do is send vats down to the fishermen with ice in our own trucks, which are refrigerated," McManus said.

These vats are then driven straight from the boating dock to J.J. McDonnell's seafood distribution site in Elkridge, streamlining the process of getting wild blue catfish out of the water and onto plates.

"It's actually a very good eating fish.  It's mild-tasting, and it's affordable," McManus said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said seafood wholesalers like J.J. McDonnell play a vital part in helping protect the bay's ecosystem.

"They're the backbone of trying to get this message out and being able to provide enough of the product there and get it to the public so they can give it a try," said Mary Groves of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

And it's truly a win-win situation all around.

"If you can help make the environment better, you're creating sustainability for the fishermen, for the environment, for customers," McManus said.

If you're interested in learning more about J.J. McDonnell and its local partnership program, click here.


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