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Adding a Crock Pot to the Environmental Arsenal

• August 20, 2012 • 1:19 PM

Today’s Wall Street Journal has another entry in the “if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” category of dealing with invasive species. In this case, Arian Campo-Flores writes about Puerto Rico’s attempts to knock down rampant iguana populations by capturing them and selling their meat in other Latin-American locales where iguana is routinely eaten.

(For those of you who missed or weren’t born for Wall of Voodoo’s excellent 15 minutes above, here’s some recipes, one for stew and one for taco filling.)

The underlying concept is that once a plant or animal gains sufficient foothold in a new habitat that it’s no longer easy to extirpate the invader, one way to get a handle on the exploding population is to deputize culinary commandos to hunt the species back to manageable numbers. Or to put it in eco-speak, the exotic species doesn’t have a local predator—until silverware-wielding people show up. It’s not exactly a new idea, even for iguanas; Floridians have been dining on the invasive varmints for a while, although without the entrepreneurial enhancement of exporting the meat.

Last year Pacific Standard reported on efforts to entice cooks to develop recipes for lionfish, a voracious carnivore with a taste for crustaceans and useful/valuable fish like grouper, snapper, and parrotfish that’s swum off Florida’s shores for the past two decades or so.

As Enrique Gili wrote at the time:

In December 2010, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation published the Lionfish Cookbook, a primer detailing the cooking and preparation of lionfish. It is perhaps the first marine species to have an entire cookbook dedicated to raising its demand while reducing its supply. Meanwhile, NOAA also encourages lionfish consumption—and, it hopes, depletion—with its Eat Lionfish campaign.

Such initiatives don’t end the invasion, merely cap it: We still have kudzu and snakeheads, for example. And sometimes the efforts just fall flat. Had any nutria lately?

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

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