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SCOTT SIMON, host:

In this recession, more than 13 percent of American homeowners who have a mortgage have fallen behind in their payments or are in foreclosure. Florida is one of the worst-hit states, and there for foreclosed homes just don't have unmowed lawns or broken windows - some also have stagnant swimming pools that get overrun with algae.

The village of Wellington in Palm Beach County has taken a novel approach to cleaning those pools. They're not hiring pool services, they're letting loose a kind of catfish to chow down on the algae. Dave Hoy is co-owner of the Shiner Shack Fish Farm in Bartow, Florida, and they supplied those fish. Mr. Hoy, thanks for being with us.

Mr. DAVE HOY (Shiner Shack Fish Farm): It's my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: So, are the fish cute?

Mr. HOY: Well, I don't know about that. They…

SIMON: At least to each other maybe.

Mr. HOY: Yeah, they are. They're a communal fish, very social fish, very docile.

SIMON: And what do we call this miracle fish?

Mr. HOY: The common name's a pleco.

SIMON: A pleco?

Mr. HOY: Uh-huh. Some of the other common names are armored sail-fin catfish or plecostomus, which pleco is short. But in the tropical fish industry, that particular name, and that fish is big - if you've got an aquarium, most people have a small pleco in there.

SIMON: So how many fish might you put in a pool?

Mr. HOY: Well, it really depends on the gallons of water in the pool, depends on the state of the pool. But for maybe a medium-size pool, which was going to run around 17 or 18 thousand gallons, somewhere around 15 fish seems to be doing what we want to do.

SIMON: Mr. Hoy, doesn't somebody have to clean up after the fish though?

Mr. HOY: That's an excellent question, because if somebody says, look, I want this pool cleaned up in two or three days, actually those fish are - we have to put some numbers in there - 40 or 50 fish - then you've got a lot of consumption over a very short timeframe. And that's going to create, like you say, another problem. So that's why we have basically settled on a smaller amount of fish and then let nature take its course.

SIMON: Mr. Hoy, do you like catfish?

Mr. HOY: As far as eating the catfish, no. This is not to be confused with that type of a catfish, although they tell me that it is an excellent eating fish. We did do a little study with the university, gathered them up some of these fish, cleaned them up, and they sent them over to Italy, I believe. And they had some chefs that experimented with some dishes there and said it was quite good, so…

SIMON: Pleco Parmigiana?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOY: Yeah. Well, you know, there might be another use here. We might be developing a new marketplace.

SIMON: Oh my word, well, not the ones who've done all that dauntless work.

Mr. HOY: There you go.

SIMON: They should have an honorable retirement.

Mr. HOY: There you go.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Hoy, bon appétit to your fish. Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. HOY: Man, it's been my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Dave Hoy, co-owner of the Shiner Shack Fish Farm in Bartow, Florida.

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