Catfish pie? How one Swiss canton plans to eat its way out of a nature crisis

Catfish pie? How one Swiss canton plans to eat its way out of a nature crisis

It may not be the prettiest fish in the sea, but new plans in Canton Lucerne would see the Wels catfish become the latest Swiss delicacy. The plan is designed to help reduce the catfish population in Swiss lakes, which is endangering biodiversity.

Biodiversity in Lake Sempach in crisis due to Wels catfish

Lake Sempach in Canton Lucerne has a big whiskered problem: it has too many catfish. The catfish, which was released illegally into the lake some years ago, is reproducing so successfully it is severely damaging the biodiversity of the lake, with stocks of perch and pike declining significantly.

Representatives from Lucerne have called on the government to act, as they fear that the “foreign fish” will endanger the lake's fragile ecosystem. While politicians debated, one local idea was announced to try and make the invasive Wels catfish a local delicacy.

Chef hopes to make Wels catfish into a Swiss delicacy

Head of the Swiss fisheries advisor service, FIBER, Nicola Sperlich, said that if demand for catfish was greater, it could be used to curtail their population. She conceded that there is little chance of eradicating the species, but said that the catfish population could be controlled by eating them.

Gault Millau chef and anti-food waste activist, Mirko Buri, said the idea has great potential for sustainable and regional food. He said that the fish currently has an image problem, with the greasy predator being not sought after in restaurants, which is something he hopes to change.

Calls for catfish to be served in Michelin star restaurants in Switzerland

Buri called on other star chefs in Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva to get high society involved by starting to offer Wels catfish in gourmet restaurants, selling them as “sustainably and locally caught game fish.” He said that if supermarkets were to sell filleted versions of the fish, the wider public could get involved too.

While Wels catfish may not be a culinary staple in Europe, smaller catfish species are highly popular dishes, especially in the American South. If the plan is successful, biodiversity in Lake Sempach could be achieved by curing an empty stomach.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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