Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

June 5, 2013

Creating market

New firm could greatly ease the problem with Asian carp

ASHLAND — A new company launched with the help of tax incentives offered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky may have the best plan yet for reducing and perhaps even eliminating Asian carp, the large non-native fish that have been threatening aquatic life in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The plan is simple: Turn the problem Asian carp into a source of profits for commercial fishing companies. Once those companies learn there is money to be made by catching and selling the large Asian carp, many of which weigh more that 100 pounds, companies along the Mississippi and its tributaries will cast their nets into the waters in hopes of catching as many Asian carp as they can. In so doing, they will be ridding the waters of Asian carp that are threatening to destroy popular fish like bass, blue gill  and other sport fishing breeds that attract scores of anglers to this region every year.

Two Rivers Fisheries Inc. is investing more than $2.5 million in a western Kentucky venture expected to create 50 jobs processing Asian carp for shipment to Southeast Asia. The large fish breed faster than some native species and eat up algae and zooplankton that other fish need.

Just how many Asian carp there are in Kentucky is evidenced by the results of a March commercial fishing tournament at  Barkley and Kentucky lakes, the two man-made lakes that form the perimeters of Land Between The Lakes, the popular nature area in western Kentucky. While the two-day  tournament fell short of reaching its ambitious goal of catching 100,000 pounds of Asian carp, commercial fishing companies did catch more than 83,000 pounds of carp in less than two days.                             

Officials announced Thursday Two Rivers Fisheries will buy Asian carp from local fishermen, process the meat and blast-freeze it for shipment to the Asian market. The fish caught during the March tournament were sent to a company in Tennessee that makes dog food.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s office said in a statement the company expects the plant will be able to process and sell up to 10,000 pounds of Asian carp per day. Our hope is the new company will be operating at capacity from day one and the venture proves profitable for both the processing company and for commercial fishing companies. If it is, the threat of Asian carp to other fish populations will decline rapidly. Since the big carp are not native to Kentucky, their number in the state ideally should be zero. Because of that, we see no reason to place limits on how many Asian carp companies can catch in the state.

Ideally, profits from catching Asian carp should be strong but shortlived. When all the Asian carp in Kentucky and surrounding states have disappeared, Two Rivers Fisheries should be able to quickly shift to processing other types of fish.

Because the carp pulled from area streams are garbage collectors and not at all tasty, most of us can’t imagine dining on Asian carp. But experts said the large fish can be quite tasty, and some have suggested that best way to convince Americans to try Asian carp would be to change its name.  After all, it was not until the name of “slimehead” was changed to “orange roughy “ that it became a huge commercial success and a favorite at seafood restaurants everywhere. Thus, it seems to us that a name change is in order for Asian carp.

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