GRAFTON, Ill. - An investor said Thursday a planned Asian carp processing plant could fire up early next year, aggressively harvesting the invasive, ecologically threatening species from two of the nation's biggest inland rivers that converge nearby.
Word of the $5.4-million venture headed by Ben Allen's American Heartland Fish Products LLC was ballyhooed in this 700-resident town, located about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis. Regional leaders, state lawmakers and a Chinese contingent of investors attended an announcement celebration in a park by the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
American Heartland already appears to have firm footing, having landed a three-year deal to supply 35 million pounds of carp to a client in China, where the fish is popular. The plant also would market fish meal and fish oil.
Given the plant's potential of several dozen jobs, "this is good for the whole region economically, and it gets rid of the damned fish," a smiling Democratic state Sen. Bill Haine from nearby Alton told The Associated Press.
Asian carp were imported decades ago to clear fish ponds and sewage treatment lagoons in the Deep South of unwanted vegetation or grubs. They migrated up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and are poised to invade the Great Lakes, where scientists say they could out-compete native fish for food.
The federal government has spent more than $100 million on an electric barrier and other steps to keep them out. Bighead and silver carp are a particularly serious threat because they eat plankton.