By Jamey Dunn
Illinois is embarking on a new plan to help tackle its Asian carp problem based on the idea that one person’s ecological threat is another one’s dinner.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced a public-private partnership with an Illinois and Chinese company to catch and sell the fish overseas.
“They’re 100 pounds, 5 feet long and they jump out of the [water] when they hear a motorboat. We’d better find a way, an American way, to take this challenge and convert it into an economic opportunity,” Quinn said at a Chicago press conference.
The invasive species, which is prevalent in downstate waterways, has become a point of controversy and the basis of a lawsuit because of concerns that it might find it’s way to into the Great Lakes. The carp can damage the ecosystems they invade by competing with native species for resources.
Under the new plan, Illinois will award a $2 million grant through the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity to the Big River Fish Corporation, a processing company located in Pearl. The company will use the funds to update that plant and expand with new facilities in Pittsfield. According to Quinn, Big River Fish will create 61 new positions.
Under the agreement, the company is expected to harvest 30 million pounds of Asian carp that it will then ship to the Chinese company, Beijing Zhuochen Animal Husbandry Company, for sale in international markets.
Commercial fisherman currently remove carp from Illinois lakes and rivers under a contract with the Illinois Department of Natural resources.