Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

Invasive Fish Becomes Nutritious Dish for Haitians in Need
SuperUser Account

Invasive Fish Becomes Nutritious Dish for Haitians in Need

Contact: Roy Kron/Louisiana Sea Grant, 225-578-6564 or John Ewald/NOAA, 301-734-1165

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians died, were injured, or lost their homes in a devastating January 2010 earthquake. Many of the survivors continue to struggle to overcome their losses – among them, the young residents of the Zanmi Beni home for orphaned children.

More than 1,000 miles away, the invasive Asian carp has found its way into the lower Mississippi, Red and Ouachita rivers and the Atchafalaya Basin where it threatens to out-compete native fish for food and habitat. These fish are a common incidental catch in the hoop nets of Louisiana’s commercial freshwater fishermen.

Coral colony

Coral colony

Colonies of Lophelia coral with outstretched feeding polyps were discovered at 1260 feet deep in the DeSoto Canyon. Galatheid crabs seen here are strongly associated with reefs of Lophelia. Credit: NOAA

Some innovative thinking is now turning the problem fish into a high-quality protein source for the children at Zanmi Beni, run by Operation Blessing International. Researchers at NOAA’s Louisiana Sea Grant program and the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter have successfully produced canned Asian carp pleasing to the Haitian palate. Ultimately, the product could deliver high-quality protein to people in need, be a boon to fishermen, provide a new opportunity for canneries, and reduce the population of an unwanted invasive species.

The project began when Julie Anderson, a fisheries specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter, met Bill Horan, Operation Blessing International’s president and chief operating officer. Operation Blessing is a non-denominational Christian humanitarian organization providing disaster aid in the United States and 23 other countries. The group did extensive work in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Horan and Anderson were introduced at an event celebrating Operation Blessings’ efforts to help New Orleans area soft-shell crab producers rebuild their shedding facilities.

"There are so many people in Haiti who are protein-starved and would love to have fish. The favorite fish meal is a canned sardine in tomato sauce. We have a children’s home with 47 disabled orphans. We thought that would be a good place with the kids and the staff to try the carp," Horan said.

"It was great to connect with Bill and Operation Blessing,” said Anderson. “This is an exciting opportunity to use an underutilized and sometimes misunderstood fish to feed people in need. We quickly marshaled resources at LSU to create this pilot project. We are now looking for ways to expand production."

Exploration command center

Exploration command center

Pen-Yuan Hsing, a graduate student from Pennsylvania State University, works in the ship's control room to maximize the scientific benefits of the ROV dives. Credit: NOAA

The Highway 1 Fish Market in Simmesport, La., donated about 100 pounds of Asian carp for the initial trial. Anderson contacted her colleague Lucina Lampila, an associate professor and seafood specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU's Department of Food Science, to coordinate canning. LSU food science graduate student Matt Cael devised a tomato sauce recipe to replicate the one used in the Haitian sardine dish.

The test run produced about 75 cans of fish. Anderson sent carp packed with and without sauce, and Operation Blessing workers delivered them to St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-Au-Prince. About 20 people sampled the fish. David Darg, Operation Blessing’s director of Disaster Relief reported, "We had the cooks from the hospital in on the test, and they were very impressed. The conclusion is that they could serve this to people at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with no complaints."

With this success, Operation Blessing would like to move forward by purchasing enough canned carp to fill a 40-foot shipping container. Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter now are working to meet this tall order.

Horan, an avid recreational fisherman, is enthusiastic. "The idea of using this scourge of American waters is wonderful," he said. "If we could show these fish are good to eat, we could create jobs and feed people."

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at or join us on Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels.

On the Web:
Operation Blessing International

Louisiana Sea Grant


Previous Article NOAA near-term weather forecasts get powerful boost from new computer model
Next Article Do Not Disturb: Quiet, unmanned planes may help NOAA survey marine mammals



Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected


Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Copyright 2018 by NOAA Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top