Carp-e diet: Researchers tout the use of invasive carp as food for farmed fish. Even the pickiest. | St. Louis Business News

In the hunt to do something – anything! — with invasive carp, an exciting new option could emerge from ongoing research: turning them into fish food. A team from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, for example, says specialized fishmeal made from carp could play a much bigger role on fish farms in the fast-growing aquaculture industry.

This is even true, they say, for sought-after species like yellow perch, which are notoriously difficult to farm.

The researchers say their recent perch-farming experiments with carp-based feed could have multiple benefits and help spur the development of different industries. For example, if more widely adopted, their findings on feeding strategies could help establish commercial aquaculture for desirable but difficult-to-farm fish like perch and possibly walleye.

“Everyone loves perch,” said Karolina Kwasek, assistant professor of aquaculture at SIUC, who helped lead the research. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t consider perch or walleye to be tasty fish.”

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Karoline Kwasek, Fisheries Research Center for Fish Aquaculture, and Carbondale researchers from Southern Illinois University of Aquatic Sciences are trying to find better ways to successfully hatch and rear yellow perch while creating a new food that uses the invasive copi as a source of protein. From left to right, Michal Wojno, Scientific Assistant at the Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences; Giovanni Molinari, graduate student; Karolina Kwasek, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences; and Peter Boessen, graduate student.

Rusty Bailey, SIUC

And as a bonus, ongoing work suggests that carp could be a very useful base protein for feeding these fish, and many others. Over time, if it becomes a food of choice in aquaculture, it could create market incentives to commercially catch invasive fish and possibly control their runaway populations.

Raising perch indoors is fraught with complications, especially when they’re young — taking them away from the world of aquaculture fish production, Kwasek says.

“The smaller the larvae, the more difficult it is to keep them alive in controlled environments,” she said.

Perch in SIU Carbondale Research

Assistant Scientist Michal Wojno and graduate student Peter Boessen display some of the yellow perch fry at one of the hatcheries in the McLafferty Annex on the SIU Carbondale campus, Friday, September 2, 2022.

Karolina Kwasek

But Kwasek and his collaborators set out to find a source of high-quality digestible protein suitable for young fish. They came across a carp-based recipe that was a hit with the perch.

They came up with the idea after previous studies showed that fishmeal made from carp was as effective as other marine varieties when fed to largemouth bass. But using the same carp protein for larval perch requires special treatment first.

For example, the SIUC team added other ingredients, like enzymes, which essentially help pre-digest the protein – mimicking what the larvae would naturally eat, down to the temperature and pH they are given. , in the form of granules.

“We can’t expect them to break down complex nutrients,” Kwasek said. “It’s almost like we’re digesting it in vitro for the species.”

This is certainly not the first time that an invasive species has been put on the menu or integrated into the human food chain.

More than a decade ago, Illinois carp were turned into fish sticks, for example.

Meanwhile, Purina PetCare used carp as an unconventional protein variety in their pet food. And it’s not just part of an invasive fish playbook. Nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent native to South America, has also been turned into premium pet food by a company in Louisiana, where orange-toothed animals are a widespread problem.

But the aquaculture frontier could be a particularly attractive target for all those fish-based proteins. That’s because it’s the fastest growing industry focused on livestock and animal production, Kwasek says. She sees invasive carp as a “sustainable” source of protein that can meet the growing demand for food from the industry and its emerging subsets for different types of fish.

The gathering of Asian carp continues at Creve Coeur Lake

Asian carp are deposited in a dumpster on the shore of Creve Coeur Lake Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. The Missouri Department of Conservation joins the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and county parks of St. Louis Department to eliminate invasive Asian carp from Lake Creve Coeur. The project lasted two years and uses the coordinated efforts of these agencies and their resources to remove the fish. Their efforts were hampered by freezing temperatures and ice on the lake. They estimate that the lake has between 40,000 and 70,000 carp. They hope to have them removed within the next ten days. Photo by JB Forbes, [email protected]

JB Forbes

Kwasek hopes the new approach to perch farming can have wide-ranging and potentially transformative applications.

On the one hand, she says it could help new types of aquaculture take hold. While the team’s latest work has focused on perch, walleye is next in similar trials to be conducted by research partners in Wisconsin, starting next year.

Kwasek said that so far “difficulty in raising them has been the main obstacle” for both types of fish. (Besides the attraction of raising perch and walleye as a food source, they are also popular candidates for stocking streams.)

But there’s also vast potential, Kwasek says, for carp to make inroads as an increased source of human food — something she hopes her team’s research can help change. She said it’s very nutritious and points out that it’s already popular in Asia, but isn’t as popular as a diet option in the US (in fact, the SIUC research team refers to carp as “copi” – a term that technically refers to four different species of carp, and which Illinois has adopted in recent months, as part of {a class=”c-link” tabindex=”- 1″ href=”“rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank” data-stringify-link=”” data-sk=”tooltip_parent” data-remove-tab-index=”true”}a rebranding campaign{/a} to promote greater use of fish.)

“It’s just a matter of perception,” she said. “Hopefully it influences how the public perceives it and maybe we’ll start integrating it into our kitchens.”

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