Invasivores eat invasive species, meaning organisms (bacterium, fungus, plant, or animal) introduced to a location that have had negative health, environmental, or economical effects. There are about 7,000 introduced species in the United States. Around 1,000 of them are growing out of control and monopolizing resources. When this happens, competing species collapse. Then, any species depending on the collapsed species also dies off. It is, as Outside’s Rowan Jacobsen says, an “ecological death spiral.” Invasivores aim to bring back natural biodiversity by consuming the aliens.
The Invasivore website points out that this objective is quite reachable: “From prehistoric times, humans have had an amazing track-record of severely reducing the populations of species we eat.” In the realm of seafood, for example, our “amazing track record” currently includes bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, and Atlantic halibut. Say goodbye to sashimi and farewell to fish and chips. For those who want to take a stand, the Invasivore site encourages its followers to “think of [invasivorism] as reasonable revenge for the harm these species cause.” The idea is catching on. As far back as 2010, New York Times’ James Gorman noted that there was “a new shift in the politics of food, not quite a movement yet, more of an eco-culinary frisson.”
What kind of foods do invasivores eat? If they are located near any of the Great Lakes, or the Mississippi River runs through their state, or they are in Texas, they might consume Asian carp. Forty years after being introduced, this fish makes up 90 percent of the biomass in some places. Eating Asian carp also could help lower the $18.4 billion the Army Corps of Engineers says it will need in order to keep them out of the Great Lakes. The downside of “Kentucky tuna” is that it has lots of bones and very soft flesh. However, chef Paul Fehribach from Big Jones restaurant in Chicago came up with a recipe for crispy carp cakes that people love. He is now in the process of perfecting carp fish sticks.
Another fish an invasivore might eat is lionfish, which have invaded the coast from Texas all the way up to New York. The founder and president of Ocean Support Foundation, Graham Maddocks, says that “the lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face.” Popular lionfish dishes include seasoned grilled fillets and ceviche. For pork lovers who live in Texas, there is the feral hog. Here for about 30 years, 5 million of them are running around the lower 48. Half of those are in Texas, and even though that state harvests over three-quarters of a million each year, the population still doubles every five years. The website of Wild Boar Meat Company says the meat is unique and has a “nutty and sweet taste” that is “unrivaled by domestic pigs and other wild boar populations around the world.” It also contains “more protein but less fat than beef.”
Your dog can also be an invasivore by eating dog biscuits and jerky treats made of nutria. The Louisiana swamp rat also known as the “mammalian lawn mower” has perpetrated severe damage on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands since it was brought here nearly 100 years ago for its fur. Some places in the Bayou State have 6,000 swamp rats in one square mile. A state bounty program pays $4 for “fresh or frozen” nutria tails “longer than seven inches,” but the carcasses must be buried or sold. Trying to get humans interested in eating them has never been successful, so a lot of meat was going to waste. A couple of dog lovers decided to do something about the waste and started Marsh Dog, the lone commercial seller of nutria meat.
Invasive species are a major threat to native biodiversity. Rigidity in dietary tastes compound the problem and stem from society’s relatively new-found ability to transport food all over the globe. The eradication of invasive species is a huge step in biological and ecological conservation. The invasivore makes a covenant with nature by using what has been provided.
By Donna Westlund