Exporting Asian carp

By Chris Landers

Photo of Asian Carp jumping out of the water

A processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky., began shipping to overseas customers this summer. The product: processed Asian Carp, a nuisance fish caught nearby and headed for China, where it’s considered a delicacy.

Two Rivers Fishery had just opened in May of this year, and by August the plant was processing around 6,000 pounds of carp a day. The first shipment to China totaled 40,000 pounds, with an additional order pending for 1 million pounds more. Plant manager Jeff Smith told a local radio station that the company had hired more plant workers and planned to bring on more fishermen to fill the large order.

Asian Carp may be desirable elsewhere, but in the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the region around them, the fish are a serious nuisance, destroying local ecosystems and even causing injury to boaters. The fish grow to be 20 pounds, and will launch themselves out of the water at the sound of a boat motor, sometimes with damaging consequences for the passing boat. And in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River watersheds, they are the cause of an intense battle over the best way to keep them from populating the Great Lakes and destroying native fish there.

In a statement at the plant opening in May, CEO Angie Yu touted the economic and environmental benefits of the company's plan.

“We are thrilled to be a member of the Wickliffe/Ballard community,” Yu said. “After years in the international fish importing and exporting business, we have realized our dream of creating our own factory. 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.”