Give a man a fish…and it still tastes like corn and soybeans.

So a recent NY Times article put the fear of Cod into its readers (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/science/earth/02tilapia.html?_r=1&ref=honduras).  Actually the fear of tilapia: that mild, versatile fish so common at Wegmans (from CHINA!!!).  The article talks about the down falls of farm-raised tilapia from both an environmental standpoint (filthy business raising fish), and a nutritional standpoint.

It would appear that tilapia fisheries (like the one in Cortland, NY: http://www.tilapiaforyou.com/ind_aqua.html) are using fish food made mainly of soybean and corn.  The result is a fast growing fish with none of the benefits of fish and all the ingredients of commercially-raised chickens and beef.  In the wild tilapia rarely come in contact with corn or soybeans (or the massive amounts of human poo highlighted in one Dirty Jobs episode).  Their natural diet is limited to aquatic plants and other fish.

A little creative reading and I have actually found the solution to the problem, which in turn solves several other problems at the same time!!!!  Montezuma NWR (like most Finger Lakes bodies of water) is under attack from Asian carp (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM3p6dm7jkQ) and Eurasion milfoil (http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/40029.html).  The first one is a fish, the other is an aquatic plant.  Control methods for these little nasties seem to involve hand-wringing and hope.  It has not been working.  The huge investment in aquatic milfoil harvesters has not paid off (and where does the milfoil go?).  Sure there are some “sportsmen” who shoot carp with bows and arrows and kill quite a few, but what happens to the collected fish?  Nothing.  Usually they get thrown onto the canal bank or just dumped back into the water.  No one eats them (you can eat clear-water carp, but muddy-water carp taste like…well…mud.).

What if the carp and plants were collected and processed into fish food for the tilapia farmers?  The Tunison Lab of Aquatic Science in Cortlandville, NY (http://www.glsc.usgs.gov/_files/factsheets/Stations%202002-1%20Tunison.pdf)  has the methodology for creating and analyzing pelleted food for fish.  I mean its what they do.  Carp could be netted during breeding season in huge numbers, the milfoil harvesters could work round the clock and both products could be trucked to a pelleted-fish-food processing plant.  Throw in a little invasive purple loosestrife for fiber and VOILA!

We solve some invasive species problems, we improve the quality of farmed tilapia, and we get NY working again!  Write a congressman…or a fisherman…and get them on the hook.

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