Cashing in on Asian Carp Invasion
Wickliffe - The battle to control the invasion of Asian carp that has infested local waterways and has ousted other species is being fought from a different angle in Wickliffe, Kentucky.
Two Rivers Fisheries, TRF, which opened its doors in July 2013, is well on its way to taking one man’s disaster and turning it into another man’s delicacy.
The Asian carp, which were introduced to southern United States waterways in the 1970s in an effort to get rid of overgrowth of vegetation, became a problem as their voracious appetites caused them to overtake other fish and disrupt ecosystems. The invasive fish, which can weigh up to 100 pounds, then began migrating north where they threaten to alter the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.
Measures have been taken to deal with the fish including setting up electrical barriers, but Angie Yu, President off Two Rivers Fisheries, was one of a few entrepreneurs to look at the problem from a whole different perspective. Instead of managing and controlling the Asian carp problem, why not cash in on them?
Yu says the company has shipped out a half-million pounds of Asian carp to China so far. The last of 12 shipments was sent out on December 5th.
“We’re just like any other product. When you’re a new company and you’ve got a new product that you are trying to sell, it takes a little bit of time for it to get digested,” said TRF Operations Manager Jeff Smith.
Yu said the process of establishing the market for Asian carp would take time. “These are new products in China. The U.S. crop is new. In China, there are a lot of farmed crop. We need to compete with the price. We need to educate our end users,” said Yu. “These crops from the U.S. are more expensive but better and healthier”, said Yu.
Another issue in trying to get the Chinese market more interested in U.S. Asian carp is the local people’s desire for fresh fish even though they know it is not healthy. “People have eaten that cheaper fish for years; why change to buy the expensive ones?” Angie asked.
According to Yu, operations at TRF were down for about a month last fall due to the government shutdown. She was not able to get export papers, and the representative with whom she had been working who understood the process of shipping Asian carp had been furloughed to California. Yu said Senator Mitch McConnell’s office helped in her endeavor, as did Senator Rand Paul and Governor Steven Beshear.
Yu also cited Chinese New Year Celebrations as causing a slow down in exports since most of the people who would be requesting the frozen carp were not working. She cites the market for the fish as the reason for the slow down. “The business is like the stock market,” Yu said. “It goes up and down.”
After having halted operations because of the Chinese New Year, Two Rivers Fisheries was supposed to commence catching and shipping carp on March 3rd, but the severe weather in the region pushed that date to March 5th.
According to Smith, one fisherman was able to get out on Wednesday; he caught 4,200 pounds of fish. On Thursday, more fisherman were able to get out, and they caught 5,500 fish by mid-morning. Yu was confidant they would bring in up to 10,000 pounds of fish by the end of the day.
Yu said she has been receiving 5 to 6 calls a day since the Wall Street Journal did a feature about the export of Asian Carp toward the end of January, citing her as one of only a few others in the region who have been profiting from the battle against the invasive species. There are two other processing plants in Illinois, but Yu says, “We are the biggest one to export Asian carp.”
Recently, Yu has expanded her entrepreneurship by opening a Fresh Fish Market at TRF for the local community. People can buy fresh Asian carp, Catfish, Buffalo ribs and other catches from fisherman. Smith said the fish can be cut to customer specifications.
Two Rivers Fisheries also offers fertilizer processed at the plant. Yu says she has received inquires from local farmers as they are preparing for spring planting. In addition, Yu is also looking toward the second phase of her endeavor, which will involve further processing.