Asian carp have been causing headaches among commercial fishermen and anglers for years. This fast-growing and highly invasive fish was originally brought to the United States in the 1970s to control aquatic vegetation, but the species eventually escaped into the Mississippi River. Thriving in American waters, the fish have become fierce competition for native species, and are often winning the battle.
Asian carp are now one of the most pressing ecological issues for many states’ wildlife agencies, and millions are spent in efforts to contain or eliminate the fish. Extensive precautions are taken to prevent the fish from entering the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater lake system. The lakes provide an economically vital fishing and sporting industry to nearby states, which is now at risk with Asian carp essentially at the doorstep.
So why not export the fish?
Asian carp are large, quick-breeding, and have tender white flesh that many compare to the taste of cod. In their native environment of eastern Asia, carp are valued as a food source and even considered a delicacy. However, native Asian carp are much smaller than their American cousins, which adapted to the overabundance of food and lack of competition. Also unlike native fish, the invasive variant is more than capable of swarming rivers to the exclusion of other species.
One company, Two Rivers Fishery, has decided to take advantage of this and will be betting a $2.5 million investment in a Kentucky facility to process and ship the carp to Asian markets. Governor Steve Beshear attended the plant’s opening ceremony on Friday along with local leaders as the company unveiled a 36,000-square-foot carp processing building.
According to surfky.com, Two Rivers Fishery will be purchasing the carp from local fishermen, process the fish, and then freeze the meat before shipping it overseas. The facility is capable of taking in over 10,000 carp each day. It is hoped that the new venture would motivate fishermen to target Asian carp, which are not in high demand in American markets.
“We are thrilled to be a member of the Wickliffe/Ballard community,” said Two Rivers Fisheries CEO Angie Yu. “After years in the international fish importing and exporting business, we have realized our dream of creating our own factory and greatly appreciate the support we have received, both on the local and state levels. Our hope is that this facility benefits Kentucky’s waterways as well, removing Asian carp from the rivers and turning them into a positive resource.”
Image courtesy Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources