Updated 5:04 p.m. with more details.
The tiny riverfront community of Grafton, Ill. has announced plans to build a plant to process Asian carp culled from the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
The plant represents a $5.4 million joint venture between American Heartland Fish in Grafton, Falcon Protein, based in Alabama, and Wuhan Hui Chang Real Estate, a Chinese investment group.
Grafton Mayor Tom Thompson says the new plant will provide a welcome influx of good paying jobs.
“For Grafton it’s going to mean employment, 35 jobs plus fishing jobs, then you think of transportation, how do you get carp from Grafton to China? There’ll be a lot of offshoots,” Thompson said.
The company has already lined up a three-year deal to supply a Chinese customer with a total of 35 million pounds of processed carp.
Lu Xu Wu is the CEO of Wuhan Hui Chang Real Estate. Wu says the demand for carp in China is huge, and Grafton is ideally situated to capitalize on that market.
“My company is happy to have a partner with American Heartland Fish”, Wu said. "We are glad to have this business opportunity."
The plant is expected to be up and running by November and will start out producing Omega 3 fish oil and a “fish meal," a product made up of all the waste products from fish. Demand for fish meal has skyrocketed in recent years, going from a price of $250 per ton up to $1200 per ton.
In addition to around 35 permanent jobs the plant is also expected to provide a revenue stream for local fisherman.
Ben Allen is a co-founder of American Heartland Fish and says the price per pound is for Asian carp is not that high, but fisherman can catch the fish in such large quantities that it can be lucrative.
“Look at it this way,” Allen said. “If one boat goes out and is lucky enough to bring in 10,000—20,000 pounds, and you give them a dime a pound that wouldn’t be a bad day’s wages would it?”
Illinois state environmental experts are optimistic that a robust market for carp might also help control populations of silver and bighead carp—which have crowded out more popular native fish up and down the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
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