UPTOWN — Residents can help take a bite out of the invasive Asian carp problem by eating free tacos this weekend in Uptown.
Fiesta Mexicana, 4806 N. Broadway, will offer free Asian carp tacos 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The event is part of the Asian Carp Challenge initiative to tackle the problem of the invasive fish species that threatens to harm the biodiversity of the Great Lakes. Asian carp have yet to make their way into Lake Michigan, but they’ve gotten dangerously close.
One way to reduce the fish’s impact on the city’s waterways is to consume it. Though it is not yet an everyday delicacy, chefs are seeking to show residents Asian carp is edible — and even tasty.
“I’ve had [Asian carp] burgers, tacos, dumplings,” said Josina Morita, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which is spearheading the Asian Carp Challenge. “It’s good, but they get this really bad reputation.”
The reclamation district has partnered with local restaurants to feature Asian carp cuisine. Last week, Logan Square’s El Rancherito gave away Asian carp tacos at Unity Park.
On the second weekend of the challenge, the kitchen at Fiesta Mexicana will serve up its own take on Asian carp tacos.
The tacos are free. Customers need only walk in and request the Asian carp tacos, Morita said.
Fiesta Mexicana is participating in an expanded outdoor dining program along Broadway. It has partnered with the neighboring Green Mill, which is hosting jazz concerts in the storefront that separates the cocktail lounge and Mexican restaurant.
Asian carp are native to China and surrounding areas and were originally brought in in the 1970s to clean fish farms in the South. The fish eventually escaped, first into the Mississippi River and then into other waterways.
Asian carp are now in the Illinois and Des Plaines river, making their way north to Lake Michigan, Morita said.
Once in the lake, Asian carp could consume much of the food sources in the lake, leaving less food for other species and reducing biodiversity.
Efforts are underway to block the species’ progress by erecting electric blockades and other barriers near Joliet, Morita said, and Illinois residents can help out by eating the carp.
“We’re trying to alleviate some of the pressure and slow their progression north,” she said.
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