|After. I used to eat the skin of fish, but a variety of contaminants concentrate in the skin.|
The next night I visited Alewife Baltimore, where the proprietor focuses on locally sourced foods. On arrival I see on the menu that they "support Maryland's best fishermen, farmers, hunters, and gatherers whenever possible. Our menu includes invasive species as well as sustainably sourced seafood in order to aid in the preservation and protection of our ecosystems." The menu includes local crabs, as well as a few species labeled "invasive" including feral hogs, Blue Catfish, and Northern Snakehead. In other words "snakeheads are evil, eat them!" This unique solution was popularized in Jackson Lander's Eating Aliens book and the idea has begun to catch on. See the PBS special A New Wild.
I order the Blue Catfish tacos, which the menu describes as Potomac River Blue Catfish, with chimichurri, blistered corn salsa, chipotle cabbage slaw, and sweet potato strings for $13. I also ordered the Southwest style potato fish cakes, warm corn and bacon salad with dill avocado puree. The combination of flavors on the Blue Catfish taco were very good together, as good or better than other fish tacos I've eaten. The Snakehead Cakes were also very good, but I had to wonder "if snakeheads are really such a terror, shouldn't they be making an entree with more snakehead meat instead of mixing it with potatoes?"
|Blue Catfish Tacos|
|Blue Catfish (top) with one of its many prey items, the Alewife (bottom)||Photo by Jason Emmel|
|Northern Snakehead. Photo by Donald Orth|
So we humans will continue to purposefully move fish around, whether it is prohibited or not. We will continue to debate how to manage our new collection of plants and animals in our modified aquatic ecosystems. It won't be easy. We never approach the nirvana of an equilibrium. The answer will not be found in name calling or blaming the fish. It's the people who make the decisions. Call them "invasives" if you wish, but that doesn't change the fact that they are now part of the ecosystem. Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes are perhaps the center of non-native biodiversity in North America. Whether the non-natives become beneficial to communities and local economies is ultimately up to us.