Human Harvest of Invasive Species
Invasive species have long been associated with human use; many invasives have been spread via agriculture, aquaculture, and deliberate release as recreational hunting stock (Nunez et al 2012). Recently, however, there has been a growing number of proposals that invasive species be deliberately harvested or consumed in order to control their numbers (Roman 2011). Taxa associated with this article are some of the animals whose populations are managed in this way. For more information about invasive plants, see Uses for Invasive Plants -- Washington DC Area
The theoretical justification for these proposals hinges largely on humanity’s immense capacity for inadvertently decimating native animal populations such as cod, passenger pigeons, bison, and Pismo clams through overconsumption (Roman 2011). Though we may hope that this regrettable tendency could be made to work in our favor, it is not certain that human harvesting would prove an effective population control measure for invasive species (Nunez et al 2012). Invasive species on the whole tend to have specific biological traits — high population growth rates, low predation and disease pressures, and adaption for disturbed habitat — which may make them inherently more difficult to eradicate by harvesting. Most invasive harvesting practices are currently at a highly local scale (Roman 2011; Nunez et al 2012) so it is as yet difficult to predict the ultimate effectiveness of the strategy.
Additionally, there are potential concerns with monetizing the destruction any species, invasive or otherwise. Firstly, invasive species should clearly only be subject to unlimited harvesting outside of their native range; in some cases, such as the red deer (Cervus elaphus) a species may be endangered in its native range and out of control in its invasive range. Additionally, creating a market for a species holds risks for the future. At best, the newfound value of an invasive could create a motivation to maintain the species; at worst it could be a motive to release the species in new environments entirely (Nunez et al 2012; Roman 2011). Additionally, invasive species have the potential to be integrated into the culture of an area — wild horses are considered emblematic of the American West, but originated as an invasive species released by European colonizers(Nunez et al 2012).
For more information on invasive species control through gastronomy, see:
- Nunez MA, Kuebbing S, Dimarco RD, Simberloff D. 2012. Invasive species: to eat or not to eat, that is the question. Conservation Letters 0:1-8.
- Roman, J. 2006. Bon appetite. Conservation in Practice. 7:22-27.