Invasive species continue to be a problem, but fishermen can help manage them by harvesting for sport and food.
History shows that invasive species, those that settle in ecosystems different from their natural environment, can do serious damage to the area they populate and the native species there. Commercial farming and recreational activities can be impacted and, according tho the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the invasion of these species can cost tens of billions of dollars a year.
Federal and local governments are starting to look at alternatives to help manage invasive species. Due to their exponential growth rates and lack of natural predators, people are starting to consider incentive programs to help eliminate, or at least lower the population levels. Campaigns to encourage sportsman to harvest these animals are popping up all over. From NOAAs “Eat Lionfish” to the Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest and Plant Council’s “Eat The Invaders” campaign, people are starting to think differently about how to handle invasive species.
People see these species as dangerous, but many are edible and with the over population, easy to harvest. Illinois has developed a program called “Target Hunger Now,” where fisherman specifically target Asian carp, an invasive species over populated in the Great Lakes, and donate their harvest to help feed the poor. Programs like this prevent invasive species from spreading and help conversation departments better manage them.
When sportsmen start fishing for invasive species, it creates a public awareness of the problem. People talk and the word spreads quickly. Many people don’t know invasive species are edible or that they can help the problem. When people pursue non-native species, they educate the public and get outside organizations involved.
Early Detection and Rapid Response
A movement to harvest invasive species can significantly slow their spreading. People learn to identify the species and spot them in environments they were not known to be in. Once the authorities are notified, they can respond quickly and assist to stop the migration before it’s out of control. This is huge when dealing with non-native animals because they multiple quickly with no natural enemies.
Boost to Local Economy
Places where invasive species are abundant benefit when people harvesting the animals. Many times, the species can be used at local restaurants or markets. Even if they’re not used commercially, the increase in sportsmen benefit the local businesses and help spread the word.
What You Can Do
If you’re interested in helping the cause, start local. Contact your local conservation department and ask what invasive species are in your area. Ask if there are any rules prohibiting their harvest. If not, grab some buddies and start fishing. Look online for programs that have demonstrated success and start implementing those in your area.