Target: Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture
Goal: Raise awareness about edible invasive species to help reduce their populations and impact on the environment
An invasive species, also known as exotic or alien, is defined as any living thing (plant or animal) able to thrive and reproduce in a non-native environment but whose presence causes damage to the environment or its inhabitants. The enormous Burmese pythons that currently live in the Florida Everglades are a perfect example. These gigantic snakes are capable of eating anything from small alligators to full-sized deer, and are not native to the region. What most people don’t know is that a large number of these non-native species are edible and in many cases, delicious.
Watercress, for example, is a leafy green with a sharp flavor that is used in a variety of dishes. It is considered by many to be delicious. It also grows so quickly that it clogs waterways and easily chokes out all other plant life in the area. Eating it is a great way to reduce the amount that is allowed to grow. Asian clams are another good example. These quick-breeding bivalves have been causing havoc in waters along the West Coast, clogging up pipes and damaging equipment. Easily harvested, they can replace clams or mussels in any dish requiring seafood.
The lionfish is an unpleasant character that possesses poisonous spines. It is also very nearly at the top of its food chain and excels at decimating surrounding coral ecosystems. Nothing eats lionfish except sharks, or other lionfish. But in spite of its spiky exterior, this fish’s flesh is light, buttery and flaky when cooked. Many fishermen have found that it is perfect for fish tacos. The common carp is possibly the most well-known invasive species. It was imported in the late 1800s in response to North America’s declining fish populations. Now it breeds so fast that many other species, like the smallmouth bass, are unable to compete. It possesses a light and flaky white flesh that is perfect for fish sticks or just for frying.
Many people are well aware of these creatures, and their impact on the environment. What we need to make them aware of now is how many of these invasive plants and animals are in fact edible. Encourage the Department of Agriculture to raise awareness about these edible exotics as a way to lower their populations and their impact on the environment.
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
Our country is constantly at war with invasive plant and animal species. Pythons populate the everglades, lionfish decimate the Gulf of Mexico, and water plants like hyacinth and watercress clog our rivers and lakes. It is an endless battle and can cause many native species to die out or be driven from their habitats.
We need to raise awareness about the many invasive species that are in fact edible. By turning the public’s eye toward these creatures as a good source of food, perhaps we can use humanity’s own constant need for sustenance as a way to reduce the populations of these invasive creatures. We ask that you create an awareness campaign to this effect, and therefore help preserve the delicate ecosystems that we have left.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mariluna via Wikimedia Commons