New Kentucky program to combat Asian carp begins

BALLARD COUNTY, KY — A partnership program between the state of Kentucky and a local fish processing company to combat Asian carp has begun.

Gov. Matt Bevin announced last fall that Two Rivers Fisheries near Wickliffe would establish the Kentucky Fish Center to sell Asian carp in daily auctions.

Two Rivers President Angie Yu says the auctions are held online and open to buyers from around the country. The program, which began this month, offers three locations for commercial anglers to offload their catch:

— The fish center at 1148 Wickliffe Road near Wickliffe.
— 1425 Port Authority Road in Eddyville.
— A collection boat that will be stationed on Lake Barkley.

The new locations allow anglers to conveniently drop off their catch without having to go far or, in the case of the collection boat, without having to even return to shore.

“The fishermen from the lakes need to drive one hour to deliver here (in Wickliffe). Sometimes, they don’t (have) more than 2,000 pounds. That’s not worth for them to travel all the way here,” Yu says.

The Kentucky Fish Center is being built at the Two Rivers Fisheries location.

Yu says on the week of Jan. 1, when the program began, about 80,000 pounds of Asian carp were brought in. The following week, they received about 60,000 pounds. Yu says the goal is to bring in 5 million pounds of Asian carp this year, 8 million pounds in 2020, 10 million pounds in 2021, 15 million pounds in 2022, and 20 million pounds each in 2023 and 2024.

Collectively, the goal is to remove 78 million pounds of Asian carp from Kentucky waters in six years.

According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Asian carp has established populations from the Cannelton Pool of the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, as well as in most of their tributaries. The fish are also in Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Asian carp are very prolific, with each adult producing more than a million eggs a year. Not only are Asian carp out-competing native fish for food and disrupting the state’s aquatic ecosystem — one of the species, the silver carp, jumps frequently, making them dangerous to recreational boaters.

To make matters worse, a juvenile black carp, which is a type of Asian carp, was discovered in Ballard County.

Yu says the Asian carp brought in through the program will be stored in a 40 by 68-foot freezer at the Kentucky Fish Center before they are auctioned off. The freezer will be able to hold 400 tons of fish in all.

The Kentucky Fish Center itself is currently under construction and is expected to be ready in a few months. It’s in the same building as Two Rivers Fisheries.

Although Asian carp is a big problem in Kentucky, Yu says addressing the issue will continue to create new jobs.

“We need fishermen. We need people to process it. We need a company, you know, trucking and forwarding, so this is a good opportunity,” Yu says. “I’m full of hope — as we grow up, we can reduce, we can reuse, and also we can redefine this fish.”

Yu says Two Rivers Fisheries is planning to hire three to five employees at its fish center this year, plus at least 10 employees at its new location in Eddyville. Yu says they plan to eventually add more locations for anglers to offload their catch.

As part of the partnership with the state, Two Rivers Fisheries received a $734,000 secured loan. There will also be performance-based incentives if they meet harvest goals. The secured loan would be forgiven in 2024 if the 20 million-pound goal for that year is reached. Boat registration fees fully fund the program, according to  Gov. Bevin’s office.

You can find out more information about this story and others by following Chris Yu on Facebook and Twitter.