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Old 03-16-2010, 07:00 PM
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Default Re: Rivers Full of Carp

There are folks in Illinois who have found a way to sell them - see the attached article from the Alton Telegraph newspaper from Monday 3/15/10:

Business hopes to sell invasive carp to Asians
March 15, 2010 6:10 AM
By DAN BRANNAN
PEARL ILLINOIS - Big River Fish Corp. in Pearl and area fishermen are doing their part to make use of the overabundance of Asian carp in both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

Big River Fish is purchasing Asian carp from area fishermen and distributing them throughout the United States, and the company soon may be sending them abroad as far away as China and Japan. In China, Asian carp are considered a delicacy.

Rick Smith and Lisa McKee are the joint owners of Big River Fish in Pearl. Big River Fish has been in negotiations with Chinese and Japanese business leaders about exporting Asian carp and is hoping for some type of agreement in the matter soon.

"We have been working on this agreement for many years," McKee said. "If this goes through, it would bring employment throughout the state of Illinois. Fishermen would be hired on, and it would help the Pearl area. Pearl has been a depressed area in the past. We would need millions of pounds of Asian carp each year if this goes through."

Ross Harano is leading international marketing efforts for Big River Fish. He said the company is working to develop clients in China.

"The Asian carp in China are farm-grown, and the water is not as pure as here," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity to turn a fish not viewed as environmentally friendly into an economic engine. It's miraculous. The Asian carp are very edible."

Presently, Big River is purchasing about 30,000 pounds of Asian carp a week. The invasive species, which is not native to North America, is blamed for a number of problems in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, where scientists fear they may harm populations of native fish. Wildlife officials also are working to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes, where it is feared they could decimate the lucrative fishing industry.

Big River Fish also exports other river fish - buffalo, yellow carp and catfish.

"We are going to hire a lot of fishermen and create a lot of jobs if we reach this agreement with the Chinese," Harano said. "The fish have to be filleted, washed and frozen. It is an interesting project for the region.

"This is an interesting program," he said. "No one else is doing this right now. The message that we have is we are basically taking a product - Asian carp - and utilizing it as a value-added product to provide income for the company and hire more people here to process Asian carp to export."

Harano has an interesting background, once serving as director of trade for the state of Illinois.

Jim Beasley, owner of Beasley Fish Market in Grafton, said fishing for Asian carp is more of a sideline role for his crew now, but it has become a dominant species in the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. He said if Big River Fish's needs expand, it probably will increase their incentive to catch Asian carp.

"It would be nice to sell more Asian carp," he said. "We typically fish for Asian carp with nets. Each net is 100 yards long and has different depths, either 8- or 16-foot deep. We might tie three or four nets together to get them and drive them and beat on the boat, then pick them up. Some days are easy to catch a lot, and other days we have to do several sets to get them."

Beasley said he wasn't sure what effect catching more Asian carp would have on the overall fish population in the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, but he said it might make it easier for his crew to get fish to the market.

"It is hard to fish for catfish and buffalo around the Asian carp this time of year," he said.

McKee didn't put a specific number on how many pounds of Asian carp they would need, but she said fishermen would be able to fish every day, including all winter and through the summer. Also, she said Big River Fish would expand its freezers and processing lines, and would hire more employees to process the fish.

Jason Bak, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said anything like this type of project that would reduce the number of Asian carp in the two area rivers would be positive because of the present overpopulation.

Harano pointed out that if Big River Fish orchestrates pulling 30 million pounds of Asian carp out of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, it should sure make a difference in taking them out of the biomass.

"It should allow other fish like buffalo, carp and walleye to come back in the river," he said. "The Asian carp are too large of a biomass right now. The answer is to eat them and find a market."
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