Following up on an earlier post about the decline of England’s enthusiasm for eels, I spent (wasted?) a fair bit of time this morning digging into America’s long-standing hatred for lampreys. These parasitic fish, widely held responsible for the death of King Henry I, were once on the verge of conquering the Great Lakes; they were essentially the Asian carp of their day, inspiring conservationists to dream up all manner of zany schemes to stop their invasion. We eventually stopped the lamprey from becoming too great a nuisance with the invention of TMF, an effective lampricide that has been dumped into the Great Lakes since 1958.
I did wonder, however, whether there were any serious efforts to convince the American public that lampreys were a delicacy on par with cod or halibut. They were enjoyed not only by English kings, but also by generations of Maori, who called the fish piharau and used ingenious means to ensnare them. Perhaps all the lampreys needed was better PR—or, perhaps, a pact between the U.S. government and Long John Silver’s to develop a tasty breading-and-frying method.
By the way, yes, I realize that I cheated with the image above—lampreys are not eels. I just wanted a nice excuse to point your toward this fantastic trove of materials related to Maori eeling techniques and technologies. I found the eel spears to be particularly impressive.