Silver Carp The Next 'In-Demand' Fish?

By

Linda Salim, for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia

Published on
May 7, 2008

China's fishing industry is speculating what to do with the silver carp used to clean Chinese lakes from blue-green algae.

Assuming the mission is successful, silver carp will be national heroes, achieving China's goal to clean up lakes by 2030. Could it also be the country's next top seafood export?

In February, 1.6 million silver carps were delivered to the algae-infested Lake Chaohu. Some 200 kilometers east, in Lake Taihu, the second batch of whitebait and carp were also released, weighing more than 50 tons.

Using carp to clean up algae is not a new solution; it was done in the United States during the 1970s. Ana Milstein, an Israeli aquaculture expert who has conducted a similar project in Israel, warned that the trickiest part was to know how much carp to retain. Keeping too few wouldn't get rid of algae and too much would cause the algae to multiply due to increased carp waste.

Che Jiahu, a local fisheries official in Zhongmiao, a small town North of Lake Chaohu, isn't worried about what to do with the fish; the Chinese have always been carp eaters.

In the United States, Mike Schafer, owner of Schafer Fisheries in Thomson, Ill., declared he sold more than 900 tons of silver carp annually to Asian American communities in New York, Chicago and California.

Already, Illinois State Senator Mike Jacobs endorsed the fish, mentioning it would be nice to serve in state prisons. Jacobs suggested that the carp be marketed under a more appealing name to Americans, like how Patagonian toothfish was renamed Chilean sea bass.

However, Celia Chen, a Dartmouth College professor who researched the impact of pollution in the food chain says algae-consuming silver carp from China, although mostly safe to eat in small quantities, might contain heavy metals. Asked if she would consume it, Chen said she would as long as it wasn't eating it regularly.

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