We Can Beat Them If We Eat Them: Assessing the Marketing Potential of the Asian Carp in the US

Monday, September 9, 2013: 2:40 PM
Miller (Statehouse Convention Center)
Silvia Secchi , Agribusiness Economics, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
Sarah Varble , Environmental Resources & Policy, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
A potential solution to the Asian carp problem is to harvest the fish for human consumption. Recent efforts to control other invasive species, including kudzu and nutria, have used market based methods for removal. We have conducted the first national survey of the attitudes of US fish consumers towards Asian carp, and we find that this is a potentially promising strategy. Most respondents would be willing to try a free sample of Asian carp and would be willing to buy the fish, either in a restaurant setting or at a grocery store, for home consumption. Younger respondents were more likely to be willing to pay for Asian carp.  We also found that respondents who were product purchase leaders were also more likely to pay for Asian carp.  The locally caught and processed measure was a significant predictor of willingness to pay for most preparations.  Respondents who answered that they were more likely to try the carp if it was locally caught and processed, or if it made no difference to them, were more willing to pay for every preparation except fish sticks.  This may be due to the fact that purchasing “local” food is not important to the segment of the population that eats fish sticks.  Another explanation could be that, due to their heavily processed nature, fish sticks are not widely seen as something that could be manufactured locally.  Neophobia, or the measure of a person’s willingness to try different and unique foods, was significant in predicting willingness to pay for some preparations.  Finally, people who were more willing to pay for fish sticks were less aware of the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch and less likely to follow its recommendations. Because of the negative connotation attached to carp in general, our results are encouraging. In the past twenty years, fish consumption has increased as the benefits of eating fish have been discovered and publicized. Due to increasing demand for fish, native fish populations world-wide have plummeted. By consuming Asian carp as an alternative to other fish, environmental quality in US waterways would be increased and native fish populations and riverine ecosystems would benefit. Creating demand for Asian carp could be a cost-effective solution for a problem typically dealt with through command and control policies, if it is coupled with appropriate safeguards to ensure the fish is eventually eradicated and not raised for profit after removal from US waters.