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Press Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: September 28, 1998

"COOKIN' ALIVE" - Save Our Wetlands, Eat Louisiana Nutria

With the theme of "Save Our Wetlands----Eat Louisiana Nutria," the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center have teamed up to sponsor the first official nutria cooking contest.

Five invited chefs will put their culinary skills to work when competing for glass trophies and cash prizes of $100-$400. The contest will be October 23 as part of the Downtown Lafayette Unlimited's Annual "Cookin' Alive" Competition.

According to Noel Kinler, LDWF, who has been working with chefs throughout the state to promote nutria, "Chefs have been surprised with the versatility of the nutria meat. They have created many unique recipes which are available upon request. The National Wetlands Research Center will post these recipes on their web site at"

The Center is interested in this project because of its work in nutria research and coastal restoration. Bob Stewart, director of the NWRC noted, "Our research indicates nutria have a very large and damaging effect on coastal wetlands. But, I've found them to be quite tasty...and harvesting them for food will reduce their devastating impacts."

Kinler said that nutria can be used in many traditional Cajun and Creole ways, including sauce piquant, jambalaya, deep fried, pot roast and sausage. He said nutria are herbivorous, eating only the roots and stems of plants. This meat is high in protein (22.1 %) and very low in fat (1.5%), actually lower in fat than chicken or turkey. Kinler said the meat is similar in appearance and texture to dark turkey meat and has a mild flavor, easily enhanced with seasonings.

This effort to promote nutria meat is part of the Nutria Harvest and Wetland Demonstration Project. The project is part of the State's Coastal Restoration Program and is being funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, which calls for State-Federal partnerships.

The LDWF project has three major components: (1) planning, developing and conducting nutria meat marketing, (2) conducting a coast wide nutria herbivory survey to assess the extent of habitat damage, and (3) providing incentive payments to trappers and nutria meat processors.

The ultimate goal of the project, Kinler said, is to " increase the value of the nutria by creating a market for human consumption of the meat."

He said, "If we can make the harvest of nutria more profitable for Louisiana trappers, we will increase trapper effort, harvest more nutria and reduce the negative impacts nutria are currently having on our valuable coastal wetlands. Louisiana's coastal marshes are in jeopardy, and this is our opportunity to be a part of the long-term solution to a serious problem affecting everyone."

For more information, contact Noel Kinler at the LDWF (337) 373-0032 or Gaye Farris at the NWRC (337) 266-8550.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial scientific information to resource managers, planners and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy and mineral resources.

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