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U.S. "war on carp" receives added boost from Chinese investors

(Xinhua)    11:26, April 14, 2019

WICKLIFFE, the United States, April 12 (Xinhua) -- An industrial park devoted to Asian carp processing was launched Friday in middle Mississippi River, raising hopes that the population growth of the invasive carp will become more manageable as more fish will be dragged out of water and made into tasty food.

The International Fisheries Industrial Park, sitting on 64 acres of wooded land in the quiet Wickliffe City, Ballard County in the southeastern U.S. state of Kentucky, received seven newcomers ranging from fish balls maker to organic fertilizer producer. The Two Rivers Fisheries, whose success is part of the reasons that convinced these new Chinese investors, has been in the industrial park area since 2012.

Asian carp were first imported to U.S. farms to control algae and for waste treatment purposes in the 1970s. They made it into the Mississippi River and its surrounding waters, and have over the years multiplied rapidly, crowding out a multitude of local fish species and posing a threat to the 7-billion-U.S.-dollar fish industry of the Great Lakes region if their northward proliferation is not curbed. Because of their complicated bone structure, the fish are not popular among U.S. consumers.

Todd Cooper, judge-executive of Ballard County, told Xinhua at the launching ceremony the industrial park will not only help the community fight Asian carp but create jobs and bring population back to the neighborhood.

"Our mission is to reduce, reuse and redefine Asian carp," said Angie Yu, president of the Two Rivers Fisheries, who first thanked the industrious local fishermen in her speech at the ceremony. "In the past seven years we've taken 10 million pounds of Asian carp out of the Mississippi River."

The company processed 500,000 pounds of Asian carp in its first year of operation. Thanks to Yu's good management, a growing number of dedicated local fishermen have emerged, who can make a decent living out of catching and selling Asian carp to her. The Two Rivers Fisheries now exports carp to 11 countries, making it the No.1 Asian carp exporter in Kentucky.

"We processed 2.5 million pounds in 2018. In the first three months of this year, we've already processed 1.5 million pounds. My goal for this year is 5 million pounds," the 62-year-old businesswoman told Xinhua. The company aims to bring the annual production to 20 million pounds by 2024.

Though the Chinese American's business keeps growing, her wild caught carp are not selling well in China despite their obvious advantage over farm-raised carp. When her fish entered the China market, they were in the frozen form, unable to impress the Chinese customers who always prefer live fish.

With the arrival of plants that focus on deep processing, however, the situation looks set to change. A plant specializes in smoked fish while another plans to produce fish sauce, increasing the chance of Mississippi River carp breaking into the huge Chinese market.

"Asian carp in Mississippi are ideal for fish balls," said Jiang Chengguang, a businessman from China's Guangxi. His plant in the industrial park will produce fish balls, also a niche market in Asia.

With the consumption of the invasive carp expected to steadily rise, it not only eases an environmental crisis, but also benefits the local economy.

Of the 252 counties and parishes (including Ballard) in the eight-state Delta Region, 234 are "economically distressed," according to the Delta Regional Authority.

"I thank you for what these new jobs will mean to so many individuals who look forward to new opportunities to work in their home county," said Senator Rand Paul in a congratulatory letter to the industrial park read on his behalf by his field representative.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Bianji)

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