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THE SILVERFIN STORY

HOW IT ALL STARTED
From Alligator to Nutria Rat to Asian Carp

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Taking The Road Less Traveled:
A Look Back At How It All Began

The Romanian soccer player and the ancient armored amphibian - Chef Philippe presents wild exotic cuisine in the late 1970s.


Chef Philippe remembers:
“My first experience with marketing exotic game started in 1985 when I met one of the most characteristic individual in my life. Egon Klein was a true entrepreneur who moved to Louisiana in the mid-seventies to buy alligator skins from trappers to ship for tanning and processing in Italy. Egon was a native of Romania and spent several years of his childhood as a captive of the Nazi concentration camp during World War II. The ID tattoo on his wrist always reminds me of what he endured – I have immense respect for him.
Egon’s business started to decline in the late 70’s because of the animal rights movement that started in Europe; no one wanted to wear furs or skin goods from wild animals. One day during lunch hour Egon came to my restaurant, the “Chez Paris”, with a little ice chest full of alligator meat. He asked me: “Chef, can you create alligator meat recipes so that I can sell the whole alligator instead of just the skin?”
My answer to Egon was simple: Come back tomorrow and I will have a few dishes for you to taste!
Egon was a former professional soccer player for Romania’s national team, and his energy and positive attitude made us the perfect match to launch a campaign for Louisiana alligator meat. After creating dishes such as precooked Smoked Alligator Loin and marinated tail meat for Alligator Beignet, we attended the Boston Seafood Show introducing samples of our new Louisiana wild exotic meat. The next year we attended the Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire (SIAL) in Paris, the largest food innovation observatory in the world, where for the first time Louisiana alligator meat was on an international market as a premier exotic delicacy. With hard work and positive feedback, sales started pouring in.”

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Controlled Alligator Harvest

Make the jump below, to read a National Geographic article about ‘The Alligator Marsh to Market Program’, an initiative dedicated to ensuring that alligators thrive. (National Geographic, 2001)

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Seeking Out the "River Rat"

Chef Philippe reveals his battle to bring nutria to the dinner table:

While still in Jackson, Louisiana, I teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and launched the challenging campaign to market nutria. Because nutria was eroding the coastline by eating vegetation in the marsh, LDWF approached me to assist with menu and marketing solutions. The bottom line: nutria eradication was needed before severe damage was done.


During the campaign, my friends and great Chefs Daniel Bonnot, Suzanne Spicer and John Besh helped convince a majority of consumers that nutria meat is very high in protein, low in fat and actually healthy to eat. Over the years I have proven that my instinct to create a market for exotic cuisine can be successful, and these chefs appreciated and believed that a difference could be made when we all work together at promoting my trusted idea.
With the help of Mr. Noel Kinler and Edmont Mouton of LDWF, our group cooked nutria stews, nutria soups, roasted nutria, and grilled nutria at many functions. One particular event at Bizou Restaurant on St. Chales Street in New Orleans featured a nutria dinner and a nutria fur coat fashion show where three hundred happy guests arrived to eat nutria prepared by Chefs Spicer, Bonnet and myself.
By this time, several major television networks and National Geographic had picked up on our nutria promotion story. Although the meat was accepted by the majority of consumers – similar to acceptance of escargot – there was resistance from some. The biggest obstacle we had to overcome with getting the meat marketable was the psychological outlook that nutria resembles oversized rats. We put in years of hard work on this project with limited success. We could not get U.S. Department of Agriculture approval to sell the meat for human consumption because herbivores had to be killed in a slaughter house under FDA supervision.
Then one day, out of nowhere, the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee decided to use nutria as practice targets for his officers. Shortly thereafter, local media reported that nutria was seen in New Orleans gutters. Nutria, at this point, was being publicized as a nuisance species. Within days from the headlines, our efforts to sustain a nutria market were shot down.
Though our marketing efforts to commercialize an invasive species yielded unpopular opinion, the fact remains that nutria meat is a healthy food. In hindsight, all our efforts of teaching the public about unusual and different food have had a gradual positive impact.

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Setting the Stage for Asian Carp

The introduction of alligator as an edible food along with the efforts with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to resolve the Nutria problem set the stage for Chef Philippe Parola to become a leader in turning invasive species into edible food products. The next big invasive species for Chef Philippe was the the Asian Carp. Chef Phlippe founded the "Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em" group to cause awareness of not only the Asian carp invasion but also to bring awareness to other invasive plants and animals in America.

The Asian Carp Invasion

THE ASIAN CARP INVASION

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Modern Day Menace

Asian carp have been farmed in China for over 1,000 years, serving as an ancient food staple throughout Asia. Their native homeland ranges from southern China north into eastern Russia, and possibly even northern Vietnam. Species of concern include the black (Mylopharyngodon piceus), bighead (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), grass (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) carp, and are collectively known as “Asian carp.”

Asian carp were brought to the United Sates in the 60s and 70s for use in government agency and academic research, in sewage treatment plants; and as a biological control for algae, plants and snails in aquaculture.

Since then, these nonnative fish escaped these environments and spread rampantly through the fresh waterways of the Mississippi River Basin. Now they are pushing the boundaries of the Great Lakes and entering Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, threatening multi-billion-dollar fishing industries. Their destruction continues at an alarming rate, leaving native ecosystems demolished, commercial fisheries in despair, and countless livelihoods crippled.

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Asian Carp Distribution

Asian Carp (Silver, Bighead, Black and Grass) US Distribution (2015).

Note: These data (maps) are preliminary or provisional and are subject to revision. They are being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The data have not received final approval by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and are provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the US Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the data.

CLICK HERE FOR A LARGER VIEW
OF THE DISTRIBUTION MAP

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Protect the Great Lakes

We recognize with gratitude the aid our government has given to help halt Asian carp from harming the Great Lakes. They must continue to do everything in their power to prevent carp from destroying the fisheries economy and ecology of the earth’s largest freshwater ecosystem. They are installing an additional electrical barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, with plans to build the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, 50 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.

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The Nationwide Crisi

Asian carp are in at least 28 states and steering toward more. Crucial to resolving the Asian carp crisis is a solution that not only protects the Great Lakes, but also directly tackles the continued destruction that Asian carp impose on native habits and lives throughout the Mississippi River Basin, and our country.

A solution that meets basic human needs and ensures humankind does not pay a hefty price…

In the US, 1 in 5 children suffer from hunger, over 600,000 people are homeless and without proper nutrition, and countless communities are at risk. Yet, we have a bounty of wild natural nutrition rich resources in invasive species that is simply being wasted.

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The Most Notorious

The Asian silver and bighead carp. Both reproduce by the millions, silver can grow to upwards 80 lbs, and bighead upwards 100 lbs. Both are voracious eaters. They devour the primary food source of native fish: zooplankton, phytoplankton, algae, and detritus at a daily rate of two to three times their body weight

Since their diet coincides with that of certain native species, they are powerful ecological competitors. In fact, they have the potential to displace and/or consume native populations of fishes, plants mollusks, and other invertebrates, causing devastating ecological and economic impacts to commercial fisheries.

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"Excellent Food Source"

Nutrition Consultant Dr. Roy Brabham talks about Asian carp as an “excellent food source”:

“I consider Asian carp to be an excellent food source for a number of reasons. Like all fish, it delivers a lot of protein and healthy fats. Unlike ocean fish, sustainability is not an issue with Asian carp. It is overrunning the central American waterways, making it a nuisance and crowding out other species. It feeds on plankton, which is at the bottom of the food chain. This means that progressive food chain concentrations of harmful chemicals such as dioxin and PCB’s and heavy metals such as mercury, do not occur in Asian carp like they do in carnivorous and omnivorous fish."

THE GREAT ESCAPE DEBATE

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The Floods

Today, many believe that Asian carp escaped from fish farms in Arkansas. In the 1970s, the first documented Asian carp, most notably silver and bighead, were brought to the United States by Jim Malone, a fish farmer from Lonoke, Arkansas. When the Mississippi River was hit by severe flooding in both the 1970s and 1990s, and thousands of Asian carp fled into the Mississippi River basin, it became popular opinion that Arkansas fish farmers were to blame for their escape.

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The Experiments

Although it is true that Jim Malone brought in the first documented Asian carp in the early 1970s, he actually gave the fish primarily to various government agencies for experimentation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Auburn University in Alabama and the Illinois Natural History Survey also received some of his fish too.

These organizations used the Asian carp to conduct research to determine whether the fish could be stocked in sewage ponds to clean them, and in other types of ponds to eat aquatic vegetation. The fish were a less expensive, more natural biological control in ponds than harsh chemicals.

The EPA researched bighead and silver carp in sewage ponds for two years, starting in 1979, in Benton, Ark. The carp “made the water clean enough to drink,” said Mike Freeze, a fish farmer and fish biologist who once worked for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

“When small towns in Arkansas couldn’t meet EPA requirements for clean water discharged from their sewer plants, the agency required them to stock the carp to clean up those ponds,” Freeze said..

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The Lost Fish

Freeze, who led research on the carp between 1977 and 1983, said he’s certain some of the carp escaped on his watch. “We know we lost fish from our facilities,” he said, referring to the Game and Fish Commission.

“In those days, no one was concerned about invasive species,” Freeze said. “The fish were kept in ponds that had mesh screens over them, but sometimes the screens were not on or had mesh that was large enough for young fish to escape into drainage ditches that led to streams and then to larger rivers.”

ASIAN CARP POPULATION EXPLOSION

Invasive Species Cost The U.S. $120 Billion Every Year

1000’s of invasive species wreak havoc with our economy, our native ecosystems, and our livelihood, many of which are edible. Meet one of the most menacing: Asian carp, most notably, silver and bighead.

“Asian carp are taking over and wiping out our native fish,” states Rusty Campbell, a Louisiana fisherman who knows first hand the fragile state of the fishing industry in his homeland.

Catch this video featuring Rusty talking about the rapid rate of the silver’s reproduction

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Perfect Storm for Spawning

When the levels of the Mississippi and other rivers rise high, fish biologists state that the waters give Asian carp new places to invade and increase their numbers. Their populations can stay under the radar for years, but then suddenly explode, often during floods. The fish like to spawn in warm, fast-moving waters, and these conditions reach perfection during floods.

“During floods, the fish are able to get into spots they hadn’t before, where they can reproduce,” says Duane Chapman, a fish biologist for the US Geological Survey considered a top Asian carp expert. “Even in places where they can’t reproduce, they can live for 25 years, scaring boaters and creating ecological havoc by consuming food other fish need.

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Tearing Through America's Rivers

These huge feisty ravenous fish have run rampant through the Mississippi River Basin for decades, and are now tearing up rivers beyond the Basin – the Wabash, White and Tippecanoe in Indiana; the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in Tennessee; the Kansas and Verdigris rivers in Kansas; the Missouri River threading through Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota; the St. Croix River in Minnesota; and all the way down south where the Red River flows through the Mississippi and into the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana.

And they have already seized the Illinois River:

“The Illinois River has more Asian carp per mile than any other,” notes Duane Chapman.

Kevin Irons, an ecologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources who has studied the carp, said he and other scientists found 4,100 adult silver carp per mile in a 66-mile stretch of the Illinois River north of Peoria; with each individual fish having the capacity to reach upwards 80 pounds.

Kevin said that although there isn’t a similar study for bighead carp, he believes the numbers are similar. The research, published in 2009, found that silver carp populations increased 84 percent between 1998 and 2008 in that same 66-mile stretch.

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Entering Brackish Waters of Louisiana's Coast

Michael Massimi, Invasive Species Coordinator, Barataria-Terrebonne, National Estuary Program, describes the urgent need to address the critical situation in Louisiana’s coastal zone:

“A thousand miles to the south (of the Great Lakes), there is much less attention and many fewer resources being devoted (to the Asian carp crisis). Unlike the Great Lakes where carp invasion may yet be prevented, the introduction of Asian carp into Louisiana’s coastal zone is now unavoidable. But the impacts may be just as severe.

At risk is a commercial and recreational fisheries industry (for shrimp, oysters, blue crab, menhaden and other finfish) worth an estimated total impact of $3.5 billion per year to the state. The industry supports roughly 40,000 jobs, and the coastal zone provides an estimated 21% of all fisheries landings by weight in the lower 48 states according to the Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.


Bighead carp have already been found in the East Bay, a brackish area near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and silver carp have been found in Vermilion Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, and the coastal marshes around Port Sulphur, LA, all locations with some salinity.”.

Chef Philippe's
"Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em!"

Protect the Great Lakes

We recognize with gratitude the aid our government has given to help halt Asian carp from harming the Great Lakes. They must continue to do everything in their power to prevent carp from destroying the fisheries economy and ecology of the earth’s largest freshwater ecosystem. They are installing an additional electrical barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, with plans to build the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, 50 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.

Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em!

Protect the Nation's Waterways

We must also address our nationwide crisis

Crucial to resolving the Asian carp crisis is a sustainable solution that not only protects the Great Lakes, but also directly tackles the continued destruction that Asian carp impose on native habits and lives throughout the Mississippi River Basin, and the rest of our country. This hardy invasive fish will surely begin to spread East and West as it has North to South. 

“The potential impacts of Asian carp to Mississippi’s native fish species, as well as our country’s aquatic resources, are of great concern. These species are now firmly established in the Mississippi River and in river systems and lakes in the Delta region of Mississippi. We recognize that commercial harvest of Asian carp is currently the most viable way to manage and control these populations,” states Larry Pugh, Fisheries Bureau Director, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks.
For the past five years, Chef Philippe Parola and his Silverfin™ Group have been working on the only solution that can effectively manage Asian carp’s ever worsening threat to our native habitats and lives: commercial harvest for human consumption in domestic markets.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

“The potential impacts of Asian carp to Mississippi’s native fish species, as well as our country’s aquatic resources, are of great concern. These species are now firmly established in the Mississippi River and in river systems and lakes in the Delta region of Mississippi. We recognize that commercial harvest of Asian carp is currently the most viable way to manage and control these populations,” 

Larry Pugh
Fisheries Bureau Director
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks

“The US is pushing past 80 percent of all seafood consumed being imported. That trend is not abating; instead, it is still gaining. It’s not likely to stop anytime soon. Commercial harvest for human consumption gives us the chance to actually gain some of that domestic production back, and with that revitalize our fisheries and create jobs. This fish is prevalent, it’s easy to harvest, and it’s delicious!”

Robert “Robbie” Walker
Co-Owner and General Manager
Louisiana Seafood Exchange

“Asian carp have become a serious threat to the ecological balance of our country’s aquatic resources. Currently, the only viable control for managing this growing invasion is commercial harvest. Chef Philippe Parola’s value added concept has a lot of potential for incentivizing the commercial fishing industry by increasing the value of these fish."

Mark Oliver
Chief of Fisheries
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

"We must get Asian carp out of the water and onto the plate! We must transform these wild caught fish into value added food products for our country – natural, safe, affordable, delicious nutritious products with the palate pleasing name Silverin™. This is the only way to greatly reduce the population of Asian carp and manage their ever worsening threat to our native habitats and lives.”

Chef Philippe Parola
Silverfin Group, Inc., Founder
Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em, Founder

"We are very concerned with the Asian carp threat to our fisheries and the danger they represent to our boaters and water sports enthusiasts. We are supporting Chef Philippe Parola with his Silverfin™ project. Promoting Asian carp commercial harvest is our only solution to preserve our Sportsman's Paradise aquatic ecosystem for future generations."

Jack Montoucet
Secretary
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries

Catch of the Day

Check out this video from The Scientist featuring Clint Carter of Carter’s Fish Market in Springfield, Illinois, catching and preparing Asian carp. Clint has worked side by side with Chef Philippe to promote the edibility of Asian carp at several outdoor events.

An Appetite for Asian Carp

Watch this video from Voice of America News featuring Chef Philippe and Chef Tim Creehan as they team up to wet appetites for Asian carp!

NOURISH OUR NATION

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Invasive Species
Wreaks Havoc

Every year, invasive species cost the United States over $120 billion, and more than $1.4 trillion worldwide, with the annual cost of impact and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy. They are among the top threats to habitats, contributing directly to the decline of more than 40% of the threatened and endangered species in the US, with over 100 million acres suffering from invasive plant infestations.

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Invasive Plants
and Animals

Invasive plants and animals colonize aggressively, readily out-competing other members of ecosystems and are difficult to eradicate. When an invasive plant nor animal becomes established in an area, biodiversity decreases and habitat structure is altered often causing unwanted changes in the functionality of the ecosystem.

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Conservation to Overabundance

Importantly, some species that were once a cause for universal conservation have become so overabundant in certain regions that they are now considered to be a major problem. Take the Snow Goose, for example. The massive rise in numbers of Snow Geese in the past couple of decades has resulted in various states implementing special ‘conservation orders’ designed to control the population by setting goals for the numbers of birds to be harvested.

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We Must
Create a Solution

We must create a solution that meets basic human needs and ensures humankind does not pay a hefty price. In the US, 1 in 5 children suffer from hunger, over 600,000 people are homeless and without proper nutrition, and countless communities are at risk. Yet, we have a bounty of wild natural nutrition rich resources in invasive species that is simply being wasted.

“I foresee harvesting Asian carp as one way to we can knock down the population and at the same time, ensure the sustainability of the native species for future generations to enjoy – this is my passion. I don’t want to see our natural resources die.

A lot of people look at the Asian carp issue and say there is nothing that we can do about. I say let’s look in history books and look at some of the animal populations in the past. Let’s look out how we have impacted species through harvesting. I believe Asian carp could be harvested to a point where their impact can be minimized.

I know that this fish is delicious to eat. We have provided seminars on how to prepare fish for more than 25,000 people. 95% love it. The other 5% of the crowd won’t try it because it is carp, and they have preconceived notions about carp. But kids have no preconceived notion, and they love it!”

Dr. Quinton Phelps

Fisheries Biologist
Missouri Department of Conservation

Dr. Quinton Phelps

SILVERFIN - OUR SOLUTION

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Creating Demand:
The Silverfin™ Brand

Creating consumer demand by transforming Asian carp, an infamous trash fish, into an affordable delicacy for human consumption is no easy task. To start, we gave the fish a fresh brand identity – Silverfin™. But Silverfin™ must also match the perceived quality of the name.

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The Cost of Control
of the Asian Carp

The current methods in place by the Federal and States governments costs anywhere from $14 million to $18 million dollars a year with little to no impact on the overall Asian carp population throughout the Mississippi River Basin. Overall the invasive Asian carp has a $120 billion per year impact on the United States when you consider the economic impact on fisheries, the impact on the environment and eco-systems, and the research and experimentation that is put into attempting to control this fast growing, fast spreading species of invasive fish. SilverFin™ group offers a much more economical solution that not only controls the Asian carp population but revitalizes local fisheries, stimulates local economies, and helps save the eco-system throughout the Mississippi River Basin.

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Creating the
Silverfin™ Brand

Chef Philippe possesses the skills to prepare the fish. With the help of his Silverfin™ Group, he has developed a unique technique to de-bone this wild caught fish and transform it into delicious, nutritious, convenient and affordable value-added fish products. Combine this with Chef Philippe’s business and public relations savvy to propel demand for Silverfin™ across the country, and we have a sure fired recipe for success.

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The Problem and a Solution

On April 13, 2016, Chef Philippe and others cooked a Silverfin Wine Dinner for the LA Natural Resources Committee. Below is a page from the program for that dinner. It explains the problem on the left side and portrays a possible solution on the right side.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

The Silverfin Solution

A live presentation by Chef Philippe Parola to the Gulf and South Atlantic Regional Committee on Aquatic Invasive Species, given this past October, 2015

Watch this video featuring Chef Philippe Parola as he lays out the Silverfin™ Group’s Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em business strategy and model to harvest and transform Asian carp into Silverfin™ value-added food products for human consumption in US markets.

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Making It Happen

We have ambitious goals, but they are not meant to eradicate this menacing costly fish. Eradication is simply not possible. Rather, our goals are meant to reduce and manage the population of Asian carp and their threat to our native habitats and lives by providing a new healthy delicious fish to US consumers. We must learn to live with these fish while controlling their threat.

Address

Silverfin Group, Inc.
P.O, Box 84524                    
Baton Rouge, LA 70884

Contacts

Email: chef@chefphilippe.com      Phone: +1  225 315 5111                   Toll Free: +1 855 467 2624