LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
If you're at the beach this summer, I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news. Many of the fish swimming around you are alien invaders that threaten the environment and the economy. Of the schemes to get rid of them, one in particular has caught the attention of WEEKEND EDITION food commentator, Bonny Wolf.
BONNY WOLF, BYLINE: If you can't beat them, eat them. Add kitchen knives to the list of weapons that we, humans, are using to fight invasive species. I'm talking about fish who have made their way into non-native waters. How do they get here? Sometimes they catch a ride in the ballast water of ships. Or they're imported as live food or dumped out of aquariums. Once here, they can wipe out native fish, trash the ecosystem and wreck the beach business.
Take the Asian snakehead which has made its way into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. It competes with native species for food and then eats the native species. This fish has a mouthful of sharp teeth. It's been called fishzilla. The snakehead hangs out in grassy shallows, making it best caught with a bow and arrow. But a couple of years ago, Maryland State started promoting snakehead as an eating fish. Its harvest has increased from 0 to 5,000 pounds a year.
Blue catfish is another alien invader. In its native Mississippi River basin, the blue catfish is a healthy part of the ecosystem. But it was planted in northeastern waters as sport fish, and now it's become a ferocious predator. So now the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has started promoting this fish as good eating too. It's not a bottom feeder like other catfish, so it has a clean flavor, excellent for fish and chips.
Asian carp got into the Mississippi River and has been making its unwelcome way north. A chef in Louisiana renamed it silverfin and now serves it almandine. There are some critics of this tactic of eating invasive species - those who worry that it will create demand. Steve Vilnit, director of fisheries marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources says if we sell the last blue catfish, we've done our job. In the meantime, though, his slogan for the fish is malicious but delicious.
WERTHEIMER: Bonny Wolf is managing editor of americanfoodroots.com.